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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Sasko Lazarov
Turbulent Times

'To say everything is refunded is not true': Travel agents and Ryanair customers take aim at O'Leary over remarks

The Commission for Aviation Regulation says that 80% of complaints relating to airline refunds have been resolved.

RYANAIR IS STILL working through refunds for some customers whose flights were cancelled last year as a result of Covid-19, a spokesperson for the Irish travel agency industry has said.

Speaking on the News at One on RTÉ Radio 1 this afternoon, Pat Dawson, chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA), said many agents are still having issues.

His comments followed a claim made by Ryanair Group Chief Executive Michael O’Leary that “every customer who has requested a refund from Ryanair has received it”.

In an interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme today, O’Leary said, “There are some people out there with vouchers, who have the option of receiving a cash refund. If they want to click on the voucher for a cash refund, they will receive it within five days. There is no backlog. All refunds have now been issued.”

Asked if social media users claiming that they are still awaiting refunds are “not telling the truth,” O’Leary replied, “Correct.” 

A spokesperson for the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CRA) — which deals with consumer complaints regarding airline refunds — said the Commission has fielded over 4,000 complaints about flight refunds relating to all airlines since “the beginning of the Covid-19 disruptions”.

“Almost 80% of these have been resolved,” the spokesperson said.

Under the 2004 Flight Compensation Regulation, all air travellers in the European Union have the right to choose a refund of the ticket price when their flight is cancelled.

However, according to CAR, airlines are not compelled to issue refunds if the passenger accepted vouchers at the time of cancellation.

‘Not true’

Dawson said that there are numerous cases of travel agencies and customers who are still awaiting payment for cancelled bookings.

These are bookings through the Ryanair website, Dawson said, by ITAA member agents on behalf of their customers.

While he acknowledged that some customers had been paid back, the process has been ticking along “slowly” but “to say that everything has been refunded is not true”. He continued:

“One small travel agent in Munster is owed €60,000 and the fact is that particular travel agent has paid out the money directly themselves, even though he hasn’t got it back from the airline. Another travel agent who is specialised in school tours is waiting on a €500,000 worth of refunds back. And the third example of these are all two, there’s one large-ish travel agent who’s waiting on on 1400 flight refunds…”
“These were all directly made by our members and paid by our members’ credit cards. So, there is no reason to say that there is a delay.” 

In a statement, the ITAA said its member agents “are currently owed roughly €20 million in refund payments from Ryanair.

“The ITAA has been in discussion with CAR to try and reach a possible solution, as well as liaising with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and contacting Ryanair directly.”

But in a statement to RTÉ, Ryanair reiterated that the airline “has no refund backlog and anyone that has requested a cash refund has received it”.

‘Original payment’

Following O’Leary’s comments this morning, some individual Ryanair customers also took to social media to vent their dissatisfaction.

One air traveller was told by the airline on 25 March last year that his flight from London-Gatwick to Dublin on 31 March was cancelled “due to the impact of Covid-19″.

He applied for a refund through the Ryanair website on 28 March, 2020 and received confirmation of his application, seen by, via email.

The customer says he has not received any communication from the airline since then.

Asked to respond to O’Leary’s remarks, CAR said it doesn’t comment on individual airlines.

But a spokesperson advised, “Passengers who requested refunds from air carriers and have not received them six to eight weeks after the request should submit a complaint to the Commission for Aviation Regulation via its dedicated website and the Commission will investigate further on their behalf. 

“The Commission for Aviation Regulation… advises that all passengers should seek the refund directly from the air carrier, most have forms on their websites specifically for this purpose.

“Refunds are often paid by means of reversing the original payment, so if flights were purchased through a third party or the passenger no longer has access to the account or card used to pay they are advised to inform the carrier of that at the time of the request.” 

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