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Ryanair says it owes no money to travel agents, denies claims that airline is causing refund 'logjam'

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said last week that there is no backlog and all refunds have been issued.

Image: Sasko Lazarov

Updated Feb 9th 2021, 2:39 PM

RYANAIR HAS AGAIN denied claims made by the Irish Travel Agents Association that the airline is causing a “logjam” in refunds to customers.

Appearing before the Oireachtas Transport Committee today, the association said about €20 million in refunds is due back to Irish customers who made bookings through travel agents who in turn booked flights with Ryanair.

CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association Pat Dawson said there is a “logjam” in getting refunds to customers and it is not the fault of the travel agents or the consumer.

“It is being slowed down by Ryanair,” he said.

A statement to TheJournal.ie from Ryanair stated:

“These Travel Association claims are false. Ryanair owes no money to any unauthorised agents, because it does not deal with travel agents on its Ryanair.com website.

“All refunds for Covid cancelled flights are not due to unauthorised travel agents, but rather directly to the passenger. The CAR has confirmed that ‘any payments such as reimbursement or compensation must go directly to the passenger’.

“The only refund left outstanding is a tiny number of cases where Ryanair has not received the refund request (via our Customer Verification Form) from the passenger.”

The airline stated that “some unauthorised travel agents” are delaying passenger refund requests because it will expose the overcharging of passengers for fees “up to €50 just to book a short-haul Ryanair flight costing just €9.99″.

Giving an example from this week, Ryanair said students from a secondary school are still awaiting refunds, despite receiving vouchers from Ryanair last August 2020.

The airline said the agent did not advise their customers to submit their refund request (Customer Verification form) directly to Ryanair, more than 6 months after the agent received vouchers from the airline.

Ryanair’ said it is now dealing directly with the school to get these Customer Verification Forms submitted and the passenger refunds will issue 7 days after receipt.

There was controversy last week after Ryanair boss Michael 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.”

Dawson said today that Ryanair is still working through refunds for some customers whose flights were cancelled last year as a result of Covid-19. Travel agents support the airlines that are in a precarious situation, said Dawson, but said airlines must pay back the customers they owe.

Last week, 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.

After the controversy over O’Leary’s comments last week, the airline reiterated its statement to RTÉ that the airline “has no refund backlog and anyone that has requested a cash refund has received it”.

A number of key stakeholders in the travel and aviation sector appeared before the Oireachtas Transport Committee appealing for more government supports.

‘Gone from bad to worse’

“Things were bad when we spoke to you in October. They have got worse, much worse,” said Dawson.

“There was no re‐opening date for travel back then, we assumed it would resume in Q2 2020. That has now been pushed out to Q1 2022 with the prospect of no international travel at all in 2021.

“We now have the new €500 fine for anyone travelling for non‐essential reasons. There is clearly no doubt that travel agents cannot trade,” said the association.

While the industry is responsible and customer-focused, and continue to follow public health guidelines if the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and the government want to close down international travel for a year, they need to put in place the appropriate level of supports if they want to have an Irish travel industry when travel can safely resume, they said.

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Committee members were told that travel agents have had to remain open to clients to facilitate refunds with practically zero income for almost two years.

The Irish Airlines Pilots Association (IALPA) said direct State aid is the “only way out of this” for the aviation sector.

State supports

Calling for a significant financial package from the government, Captain Evan Cullen said: “The loss of a second consecutive summer season – coming after an entire year of practically zero revenue – will prove fatal for airlines that have already decimated their cash reserves.”

“Every aircraft that leaves Ireland will represent lost jobs, lost connectivity and lost GDP. It is an economic fact that if our airlines are allowed to go out of business, the consequences for the Irish economy will be devastating.”

IALPA pointed out that many other governments have recognised such dangers and have
supported airlines to keep their connectivity.

Cullen said airlines had hoped to reach 70% of 2019 air travel in 2021, but the effective ban on travel has scuppered that, the committee was told. IALPA said there is no airline in the world that has planned for the financial leasing fallout of losing two summers in a row.

Siptu’s Neil McGowan says the depth of the crisis is difficult to articulate. Forsa union said the Irish aviation workers are not being protected as well as their European counterparts and face into the second summer of crisis. Committee members were told that if action is not taken, thousands of aviation sector jobs will be permanently destroyed.

Stakeholders told the Oireachtas committee they want enhanced wage supports, easier access to mortgage payment breaks and enhanced industry supports.

“The market will not save Ireland’s airlines,” said IALPA. 

TheJournal.ie has contacted Ryanair for comment.

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