The downgrading of the airline Lauda to a pure wetlease operator for Ryanair resulted in the flight numbers having changed. The airline responsible to the passengers is no longer Lauda (OE), but Ryanair (FR). This one-sided interference in the transport contracts actually requires the consent of the passengers, so there is also an extraordinary right of withdrawal.
Not surprisingly, Ryanair and Lauda do not point out this fact in the customer letters and the service center is obviously specifically trained to dismiss such legitimate claims in a thoroughly amateurish manner.
Lauda sold all tickets under OE flight numbers exclusively on the Ryanair website. Depending on whether the red-colored Lauda variant or the blue-colored Ryanair version of the homepage is used, passengers receive their booking confirmations with the Lauda or Ryanair logo. But this is pure cosmetics, because the bills are issued by Ryanair and the means of payment are also debited by the Irish. Formally, a transportation contract with Ryanair is created for transportation with the airline Lauda. Well hidden there are even their own terms of business and transport in bumpy German on the website.
Ryanair unilaterally intervened in all contracts that included OE flight numbers and converted them to its own FR code and other flight numbers. This intervention requires the consent of the other contractual partner, i.e. the passenger, since an essential component is changed unilaterally. There is also a formal rebooking, because the airline responsible for fulfilling the transport contract is changing. In the case of claims, for example in the event of delays and cancellations, this also has far-reaching consequences, because it is no longer Lauda in Austria, but Ryanair in Ireland that has to be prosecuted.
In their letters, the two airlines should have clearly and unequivocally drawn attention to the fact that there was a significant interference with the contract and that they had to obtain approval. If this is not granted by the passenger, there is an extraordinary right of withdrawal, which results in a full repayment claim within the meaning of EU Regulation 261/2004.
At the Ryanair headquarters in Dublin, you obviously know very well that many travelers in particular will not use tickets that were booked before the Corona pandemic, because they want to stay at home for a variety of reasons. There would be an extraordinary right of withdrawal and the full repayment of the ticket money. But Ryanair knows very well that there may be millions of euros that you do not want to voluntarily give up.
But Ryanair does not shy away from intervening again in the contracts and changing the flight times or even the flight days several times. The passenger’s consent is explicitly requested here, but the Irish low-cost carrier is of little interest if customers follow the instructions contained in the mail and inform customer service that the consent will not be given. The “service” that can currently only be reached via a web chat turns out to be more of a “clearing house” because there is no useful information or support, as the chat history shows. If the customer puts pressure on them, they are simply thrown out of the chat at the end. Problem solving ala Ryanair?
Customer service abounds claims in bumpy German
One of numerous existing chat histories is shown here as representative of the way the Irish company deals with legitimate customer concerns.
“Customer: I just wrote to a colleague of yours. I should fill out a refund form on the homepage. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. When booking XXXXX the flight times were changed and I do not agree to this change. I am therefore asking for a refund as a voucher. Submission via the form does not work.
Ryanair: Welcome to Ryanair customer service. I am happy to answer your questions. Please stay active while your request and reservation details are being reviewed.
Ryanair: Please use the form from the confirmation of the time change
Customer: There is no form. It says that you should contact customer service
Ryanair: There is a 1-3 hour flight schedule change in your reservation. In this case you can keep the trip or change your booking for free.
Customer: The flight number was changed, the flight times changed and the airline changed. According to EU Regulation 261/2004, this means that if I do not accept it, I have the right to a refund of the flights. I have already met you and offered you the refund as a voucher.
Ryanair: I am very sorry
Customer: What does that mean specifically? That Lauda / Ryanair ignores the law?
Ryanair: In this case, no refund is due
Customer: That’s not true. Read EU Regulation 261/2004. Lauda made a unilateral contract change and changed the airline, flight number and flight times. Passengers do NOT agree to this change. Thus, the legal regulation applies and the airline has to reimburse the ticket price. This is regulated by law and confirmed by judgments of the ECJ. That is out of the question. I’m coming to meet you and I’m ready to accept a voucher. Therefore, please ask your supervisor for a solution.
Ryanair: That is all the information we currently have. If you have no other questions on another topic, can I clarify anything else?
Customer: Who is responsible for processing?
Ryanair: After your application is processed, you will be informed by email.
Customer: what have you submitted for an application?
Ryanair: Sorry, none
Customer: and how is this handled now? Whom can I contact?
Ryanair: As I said, unfortunately if your flight was changed by less than 2 hours, no refund is due
Customer: that’s not true.”
The affected customer was then thrown out of the service chat. Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that affected passengers have to consult a lawyer and, if necessary, have to go to court or, alternatively, have to contact a specialist provider, even though the customers are clearly in the right according to the legal situation. Ryanair probably knows only too well that many passengers do not have legal expenses insurance and, on top of that, many insurers want to avoid the insurance coverage with the “Corona” excuse. Only a small fraction enforces his rights and the rest of the money is likely to remain in the Ryanair coffers as “basket money”. A behavior that could be financially attractive for the Irish low-cost airline.