Ryanair is the worst major airline for refunding British customers whose flights have been cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic, with more than eight out of 10 people still waiting for their money back, according to figures from Which?.
The airline’s failure to pay refunds, in line with passengers’ legal rights, contrasted sharply with British Airways, said Which? It found that 84% of Ryanair customers it surveyed have not received a refund as requested, compared with 23% at British Airways and 19% at another low-cost airline, Jet2.
Refunds are also being processed slowly at easyJet, with 60% of customers still waiting for their money back, according to the consumer group.
Ryanair has been widely accused of confusing customers, with numerous changes to its approach to refunds and vouchers.
“Despite initially telling customers it was processing refunds at the beginning of the crisis, customers reported that Ryanair provided refund forms that didn’t work, before attempting to force vouchers on passengers who had specifically requested refunds. It also repeatedly changed the timeframe for receiving a refund, suggesting at one point customers may have to wait up to 12 months for their money back,” Which? said.
Correspondence seen by the Guardian’s consumer champions team also reveals how some Ryanair customers are being told that refunds are not possible because of physical distancing and payment systems rules.
In one online chat, a Ryanair representative told a customer: “Our claims and refunds team should do the refund procedures but they are working from home from where they are not allowed to process any refunds due to payment security regulations.”
In mid-May, the Civil Aviation Authority warned airlines that the law was clear and that they had to offer refunds if requested, rather than offering a voucher or credit note.
The CAA said: “Under the law, consumers are entitled to receive a refund for their cancelled flights, despite the challenges the industry is currently facing … it is important that consumers are given a clear option to request a cash refund without unnecessary barriers.”
In a statement, Ryanair said it would offer refunds – but customers may have to wait until the coronavirus crisis was over.
“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,” the airline said.
“Customers who choose not to accept a free [booking] move or voucher will be refunded in due course, once this unprecedented crisis is over.”
Easyjet added: “Customers may request a refund by submitting a claim in writing via a dedicated refund webform, online. We are processing refunds for customers and aim to do so in less than 28 days.”