Woman claims Ryanair reneged on free travel prize

Thursday 28 February 2002 17.40

Ryanair's one-millionth passenger, who claims the airline reneged on a prize of free flights for life, is suing the airline for damages. Jane O'Keeffe from Leopardstown Heights, Dublin was awarded the prize in 1988 at a champagne reception in Dublin Airport.

The Ryanair Managing Director said at the time that they would see a lot of her in the years to come, and he spelled out the prize.

But this morning Jane O'Keeffe arrived at the High Court to do battle with Ryanair. She says the prize awarded with such razzmatazz in 1988 has been reneged on.

Ms O'Keeffe told Mr Justice Peter Kelly that, for nine years until 1997, Ryanair honoured its commitment on the free flights and she used the concession four or five times a year.

Trouble arose in October 1997 when she tried to book two flights to Preswick in Scotland. She claims the Marketing Director, Tim Jeans, told her that as she had nothing in writing about the prize, he was going to limit it to one flight a year.

Then Ms O'Keeffe was told the matter had moved to Managing Director, Michael O'Leary. Jane O'Keeffe found Mr O'Leary "very hostile", she said, and he asked her who she thought she was, phoning Ryanair looking for flights.

When she complained of feeling badly treated by Ryanair, she says Mr O'Leary responded that that was her problem. She described his attitude as very aggressive and bullying.

Ryanair is denying the claims made by Jane O'Keeffe and they claim that there was no contract and this was gift bestowed on Ms O'Keeffe. This morning, they also tried unsuccessfully to plead that the alleged prize was unenforceable because it was unlawful under the Gaming Act.