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Ryanair has barred passengers who got Covid refunds for its flights until they pay back the money.
Close to a thousand Ryanair customers received money back through their credit card companies for trips they did not take during the pandemic. But Ryanair has disputed the payments and said customers must pay them back before they are allowed to fly again.
Holiday makers say their plans are now in tatters after being effectively blacklisted over disputed “chargebacks”.
It comes after the Competition and Markets Authority watchdog last week dropped its investigation into allegations Ryanair and British Airways had unfairly denied customers refunds during the crisis, and instead offered travellers vouchers for future flights.
Outraged customers said they were met with payment demands at check-in, just hours before they were due to fly.
Matthew Glover, a 42-year-old IT technician from the West Midlands, said he was told he would "never be able to fly with Ryanair again" unless he cleared a £680 debt placed on his account.
“In January 2020, we booked return flights to France, but couldn't fly because of the travel ban. Ryanair didn't offer any refunds, so I made a section 75 claim through my American Express card," he said.
“In January we booked flights to France again. I attempted to change them for a different date, but before I could go any further, I was met with a screen demanding payment from the 2020 trip. Ryanair said it did not accept the chargeback as, technically, the plane still took off.”
Guy Anker of Moneysavingexpert, the consumer website which first uncovered the issue, said Ryanair’s actions were “absolutely outrageous”.
“It essentially had these passengers over a barrel shortly before their holiday," he said.
“If Ryanair wants to ban people for getting a refund that the card companies judge was fair, that leaves a sour taste in the mouth, but to let them book a holiday and only tell them this news at the last minute shows no regard for fellow human beings.”
Ryanair defended its actions. Its terms and conditions state it reserves the right to stop people flying if they owe the firm money “in respect to payment having been dishonoured, denied or recharged against us”. It does not refund customers who choose of their own accord not to travel on flights that are still going ahead.