Ryanair has been accused of 'fleecing its customers' after introducing a new charge to offset costs of their legal obligations to look after stranded travellers.
The airline has announced it will introduce a £2 levy on all bookings made from Monday to cover 'unfair and discriminatory' pay-outs to stranded passengers who face delays or cancellations following disruption - such as during bad weather and the volcanic ash cloud.
Whilst rival airlines have dubbed the new levy a 'smokescreen' and a 'very thinly disguised fuel charge', Ryanair are sticking by its guns.
It said that over the past year it has suffered costs of about £87.8 million (more than 100 million euros) arising from flight cancellations, delays and the cost of providing care, compensation and legal expenses.
These arose from more than 15,000 flight cancellations and over 2.4 million disrupted passengers 'with the majority of these claims arising in three periods during which Ryanair was prevented from flying by the failure/inaction of third parties', it said.
This included the spring 2010 Icelandic ash cloud crisis, the air traffic control (ATC) strikes in Europe last summer and the airport closures due to the snow before Christmas.
Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara told the Independent: 'It is clearly unfair that airlines are obliged to provide meals and accommodation for passengers simply because governments close their airspace or air traffic controllers walk off the job, or incompetent airlines fail to clear their runways of snow.'
He added: 'It's a crazy situation that travel insurance companies paid out nothing during the volcanic ash crisis last year because it was an 'Act of God', yet airlines were forced to pick up weeks of delays, cancellations, hotel and restaurant costs.'
The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) said it was powerless to stop the airline imposing the new charge because there was nothing in EU law to prevent it.
And Michael Kilcoyne of the Consumers' Association of Ireland condemned the new charge, saying: 'Nothing surprises me about Ryanair, they will use any opportunity to fleece their customers.'
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Do you think it's right that passengers should have to pick up the cost of their right to compensation? Or is it a clear case of Ryanair 'fleecing' its customers? Let us know what you think below...