Ryanair dispute heads to Swedish Supreme Court

A couple from Linköping in central Sweden who were marooned in Brussels after Ryanair cancelled their flight home will have their case heard by Sweden’s highest court.

Ryanair dispute heads to Swedish Supreme Court

The move is the latest in a long running legal battle between the discount airline and Rune and Eva-Marie Brännström, stemming from incident when the couple was attempting to return to Sweden from Brussels in May 2006.

Shortly before they were set to head back to Sweden the Brännströms learned their flight was cancelled due to heavy fog and that it would be two days before the next Ryanair flight back home.

As the couple couldn’t wait that long, they decided to pay their way home through a combination travel by train, rental car, and taxi.

While Ryanair agreed to pay the cost of the couple’s airline tickets – 322 kronor ($40) – the Brännström’s received no additional compensation from the airline for the extra costs incurred during their round-about trip back to Sweden.

Sweden’s Consumer Ombudsman (Konsumentombudsmannen – KO) took up the couple’s case for what it saw as Ryanair’s failure to live up to the European passengers’ rights laws.

In March 2009, the district court in Nyköping found in favour of the couple, and ordered Ryanair to pay 2,325 kronor, just over half the sum the couple had requested.

But the Brännströms’ apparent victory was shortlived, as the ruling was overturned on appeal in May 2010.

“Ryanair has proven that the flight was cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances,” the Svea Appeals Court said.

The appeals court in turn ordered that Ryanair be compensated around 300,000 kronor in trial expenses.

Rune Brännström vowed to fight on, however, saying he was willing to take the case all the way to the European Court of Justice if need be.

The Ombudsman hailed the highest court’s decision to hear the case, which the agency sees as a precedent-setting case when it comes to the rights and responsibilities of passengers and airlines.

“It’s great to know that it will now be clear which rules apply. We think that airline passengers should be able to use the same rules if a plane is cancelled as when it’s delayed,” said Consumer Ombudsman representative Agneta Broberg in a statement.

An exact date for the Supreme Court hearing has yet to be set.

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How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules