Ryanair Threatens to Sue British Government After Mid-Air Terror Scare

Budget airline Ryanair Holdings PLC threatened to take legal action against the British government unless it meets three demands for relaxing airport security and improving staffing at overstretched airports within the next seven days.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said the carrier has sent a letter to Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander informing him of its demands.

The airline, which canceled scores of flights and suffered a 10 percent drop in weekly bookings because of the terror alert that raised security levels on Aug. 10, wants the government to return passenger search requirements to pre-alert levels.

It also wants the government to restore the hand luggage allowance for passengers leaving British airports and an assurance that military and police personnel would be released to help with airport security checks next time there is a major security alert.

O'Leary declined to say how much compensation the airline would seek from the government, but said the alert had so far cost the carrier "a couple of million" euros in canceled flights and lost bookings.

He rejected analyst forecasts that Ryanair faced a 10 million euro hit, saying the short-term cost was likely to be "a couple of million euros" and the long-term impact would be immaterial.

"If the security procedures are returned to normal within another seven days, then Ryanair will not make any claim against the government," he added.

The government initially banned all hand luggage on flights out of Britain after it announced on Aug. 10 that it had thwarted a plan to blow up as many as 10 trans-Atlantic flights. It has since eased that ban, but some restrictions remain.

O'Leary was particularly critical of the fact that passengers may now carry a large briefcase, but not a small wheeled case, which he claimed was just 20 percent larger than the allowed briefcase.

The issue is a problem for Ryanair because the carrier began charging customers in January for each bag they checked as part of a plan to get passengers to take only what they could carry.

The airline temporarily waived its $3.20 fee for each carry-on bag that unexpectedly had to be checked, but has since reintroduced it. O'Leary said Monday that the airline had no plans to end the policy.