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Four in five Ryanair passengers in UK still waiting on refunds on flights cancelled since March, survey finds

Ryanair said that customers “will be refunded in due course, once this unprecedented crisis is over”.

Image: Niall Carson via PA Images

FOUR OUT OF five Ryanair passengers in the UK who requested a refund after their flight was cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic are still waiting for a pay-out, a survey has suggested.

Some 84% have not had their money returned and only 5% received a refund within the legal time limit for EU carriers of seven days, the poll by consumer group Which? indicated.

Ryanair said in a statement that customers “will be refunded in due course, once this unprecedented crisis is over”.

Many passengers have complained about difficulties with applying for refunds and being offered vouchers after requesting cash.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has previously insisted that all refunds will be paid but it will take several months to clear the huge backlog.

Which? surveyed 1,632 UK adults who had accepted or applied for a refund after having a flight cancelled between mid March and early May.

The proportion of passengers with other major airlines who have not yet received a pay-out includes 63% with easyJet, 23% with British Airways and 19% with Jet2.com.

Earlier this month, the UK Civil Aviation Authority launched an investigation into airlines’ handling of refunds.

Its chief executive Richard Moriarty told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee last week that it needs more powers to crack down on carriers.

Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said: “We have heard from thousands of frustrated passengers who have told us they are finding it almost impossible to get refunds they are legally entitled to from airlines, with some having waited months now without a penny returned to them.

“Some airlines are doing much better than others at refunding their customers, proving that while these are indeed difficult times for the industry, withholding customers’ money from them is simply inexcusable.

“The regulator and government cannot sit on their hands any longer.

“The CAA must urgently hold airlines that are brazenly breaking the law to account and the Government must set out how it will support the industry where necessary if airlines are unable to refund their customers without fear of going under.”

A spokeswoman for Ryanair said: “For any cancelled flight, Ryanair is giving customers all of the options set out under EU regulations, including free moves and refunds in the form of cash or vouchers.

“The process time for cash refunds is taking longer due to the fact we are having to process 10,000 times the usual volume of cancellations and have fewer staff available due to social distancing measures.

“Customers who choose not to accept a free move or voucher will be refunded in due course, once this unprecedented crisis is over.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and we thank our customers for bearing with us.”

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EU letter

On 29 April, the Irish government co-signed a letter with a number of EU countries asking for the European Commission to change the rules on how airline passengers can be refunded for cancelled flights.

The letter, which has been signed by 13 member states, calls for the commission to temporarily allow airlines to issue vouchers instead of refunds to passengers whose flights have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under EU Regulation 261/2014, airlines must reimburse passengers whose flights are cancelled the choice of a refund or a re-routing within seven days.

But the member states – Ireland, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, France, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal – said current rules place airlines in a difficult situation, particularly as many are facing financial difficulties.

The joint letter stated that the temporary use of vouchers would be acceptable for consumers if key principles, such as transparency, a common length of voucher validity, maximum flexibility of use and a right to reimbursement at the end of the validity period in the event of non-use, were adhered to.

The letter followed complaints from customers that Ryanair and Aer Lingus had joined a number of other airlines across the continent in primarily offering vouchers to those whose flights had been cancelled.

Earlier this month, the government confirmed that it will provide a State guarantee for a special form of refund credit note for package holidays booked through Irish registered travel agents and tour operators. 

The credit notes can be offered by travel agents and tour operators to their customers in circumstances where they are not able to provide a cash refund or a full cash refund. 

 Includes reporting by Hayley Halpin

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