Ryanair threatens to sue over airport security

Low-budget airline Ryanair has threatened to sue the government over the tough new security arrangements introduced in UK airports following last week’s terror alert.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said the measures, which have led to hundreds of cancelled flights and long delays, were “insane and ineffective”.

He said the government must remove restrictions on how much luggage can be taken in the cabin within a week, or risk being sued.

In a press conference this morning, Mr O’Leary also called for less stringent security checks, saying it was “untenable” to expect airport operators to carry out four times the number of checks without expecting the whole system to break down.

“In so doing the government gave some of these terrorist lunatics and fanatics an undeserved public relations victory,” he declared.

However, the Department for Transport (DfT) dismissed Mr O’Leary’s concerns and said there was no question of providing compensation to airlines under the Transport Act 2000 as he suggested.

“The security regime in place at UK airports is necessary because of the level of security threat and is kept under constant review,” a spokesman said.

“We have no intention of compromising security levels nor do we anticipate changing our requirements in the next seven days.”

He added: “The Department for Transport directs aviation security measures under the Aviation Security Act 1982, not the Transport Act 2000 as Ryanair mistakenly seem to believe.”

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have both insisted they have no intention of taking legal action, but the former said it is considering seeking compensation from airport operator BAA after being forced to cancel more than 1,000 flights over the past week.

Ryanair, which claims to have lost £2 million because of the last week’s security arrangements, has also been critical of BAA, saying its failure to provide enough staff to oversee the new security checks has made the situation worse.

The restrictions on cabin luggage have hit low budget airlines particularly hard, as they rely on passengers putting less luggage in the hold, which allows them to save money by turning flights around more quickly.

Earlier this week, EU ministers indicated that they were considering extending the security measures in place in UK airports across the continent.

“We want to ensure that our public knows that if others are taking measures to deal with threats then we are taking those as well,” home secretary John Reid said.

“We also don’t want to have a situation where terrorists feel that if it’s difficult to get through checks in London, they might be able to go to Frankfurt or Berlin or Paris, or somewhere else.”