Irish Ferries faces compensation bill for delayed sailings

Court of Justice of the European Union says passengers entitled to payment

Irish Ferries will have to compensate passengers delayed when their sailings were cancelled in 2018 after a new vessel was not delivered on time, an EU court ruled on Thursday.

Irish Continental Group (ICG)-owned Irish Ferries cancelled sailings in summer 2018, hitting hundreds of holidaymakers bound for France, after a German shipbuilder failed to complete a vessel, the WB Yeats, as scheduled.

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on Thursday that passengers who were delayed in arriving at their final destination, after accepting an alternative journey from Irish Ferries, were still entitled to compensation, under EU law.

However, the court added that those who had the cost of their tickets reimbursed, were not entitled to any further compensation.


The court was ruling on a question referred to it after the Republic's National Transport Authority (NTA) ruled that the company had not complied with its obligations under EU Regulation No 1177/2010.

That rule governs the rights of passengers travelling by sea or inland waterways.


Irish Ferries challenged the NTA's ruling in the High Court, which referred the issue to the European Court for clarification.

The European court ruled that the late delivery of a vessel did not qualify as “extraordinary circumstances”, which would have allowed Irish Ferries to avoid paying compensation.

The court also rejected Irish Ferries’ argument that the compensation, which the regulation obliged shipping companies to pay in when services are cancelled, is disproportionate to the regulation’s own objectives.

Irish Continental Group is understood to be disappointed that the European court ruling confirms a disparity where passengers must be compensated if a sailing is cancelled with two months’ notice, but not for a flight cancelled just two weeks’ in advance.

The company did not comment as the High Court has yet to decide the matter on the basis of Irish and European law.

Irish Ferries cancelled summer sailings to France when German shipbuilder Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesselschaft (FSG)to deliver the WB Yeats on schedule in July of that year.

The company offered to reimburse passengers the cost of their tickets or alternative travel options, including re-routing passengers to France via Britain, for which Irish Ferries paid. ICG said at the time that the problem cost it €7 million.

Article 19 of regulation 1177/2010 entitles delayed passengers compensation of 25 per cent to 50 per cent of their ticket price, depending on the delay in arrival and the scheduled length of their journey.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas