It appears that Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair is now refusing to issue refunds for canceled flights until the coronavirus situation has eased. Emails received by passengers booked to fly suggest that the airline is unable to process cash refunds due to not having staff to process the payments. This is, on the face of it, against EU rules, and has instigated an extensive backlash from passengers who just want their money back.
No refund from Ryanair
It was almost two weeks ago when Ryanair took the decision to ground its entire fleet. At the time, the Irish low-cost carrier stated that it didn’t expect to fly any commercial services until June at the earliest. While other carriers have anticipated a faster return to service, Ryanair’s conservative standpoint is, so far, looking to be a more realistic forecast.
But what about those passengers already booked to fly? Depending on the date of the trip, flight cancellation notices are starting to trickle into the inboxes of Ryanair passengers. Surely if the airline can no longer operate the flight, it should be simple to get a cash refund for the cost of your journey, right?
Perhaps not, as the Irish Times is today reporting that Ryanair will no longer offer cash refunds, at least not until the situation calms down a great deal.
It was easy to get refunds before
In the early period of coronavirus related disruption, Ryanair was widely praised for the ease of which its customers were able to get cash refunds. Adhering to EU regulations, the airline was automatically offering full refunds for canceled flights, with passengers reporting a consumer-friendly process and money back in accounts in a matter of minutes.
However, today it seems that things have moved on. The Irish Times says that readers have alerted the outlet to an increasingly difficult process to get their money back from Ryanair. Readers are reporting that Ryanair’s emails to them suggest the low-cost carrier is unwilling to give any cash refunds until the current situation has eased.
According to the publication, Ryanair’s emails to passengers state that, if they wish to request a cash refund,
“…as our payment agents are required to stay at home in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, payment security restrictions prevent us from processing cash refunds until the Covid-19 crisis has abated.
“We would like to invite you to use your voucher to book your next trip and we look forward to seeing you again on a Ryanair flight in the very near future. Should you prefer a cash refund please contact us… and we will place your request in the cash refund queue until the Covid-19 emergency has passed.”
Numerous passengers have taken to social media to vent their frustration at the lack of money coming back from the low-cost giant.
@Ryanair I would like to cancel flights online and get a full refund but it is not giving me the option to do so on you website. Can you help me out?
— TrayWay🤪 (@TrayOnline4) April 9, 2020
Michael O’Leary is a thief. Canceling flights and then refusing refunds is illegal. @Ryanair
— Westwind Alpacas (@Irish_Alpacas) April 9, 2020
You have refused my refund claim saying this is an ‘extraordinary circumstance’! Does this mean no customers whose flights you have cancelled are going to get a refund?! I can not believe you are treating your customers this way, how do I appeal against this? pic.twitter.com/IFKVre65po
— Emily Wright (@EmilyWr72697381) April 9, 2020
.@Ryanair I was meant to go to a specific event in Barcelona, how are these options at all helpful to me? Where is the option for a refund, or a voucher of equivalent value to be used on a flight of my choice. This is not good enough. #ryanairrefund pic.twitter.com/0lqvMWBRzO
— Tarn MacArthur (@Tarn_nation) April 8, 2020
Simple Flying has reached out to Ryanair for confirmation of this situation, and will add comment from the airline once we hear back.
Is Ryanair allowed to do this?
In general, airlines would not be allowed, under current EU rules, to avoid paying customers back their money. European Union regulations state that passengers booked onto a canceled flight should be either refunded, rebooked onto the next suitable flight or given credit for a future rerouting.
However, times are far from normal, and earlier this week these rules were being mulled for suspension entirely, in Ireland at least. The Irish Times previously reports that the nation’s Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, was considering giving the green light to plans to suspend these rules for airlines, allowing them to issue vouchers instead of cash refunds.
A spokesperson for the Irish government told the Irish Times,
“The Minister fully appreciates the particular financial difficulties being experienced by travel agents and tour operators from the unprecedented level of cancellations and the challenge for those companies in securing cash refunds from suppliers to pass on to their customers.
“Options under consideration include, as a temporary measure, the use of vouchers or some form of credit note for customer refunds in a way that does not materially erode consumer rights. The challenge is in finding a fair and commensurate response to what is a unique set of circumstances.”
However, no motion has, at this time, been passed to allow such a practice. The European Consumer Centre, which polices consumer rights across the EU, stressed last week that airlines were still obliged to “respect passenger rights”, suggesting a cash refund was still a valid request.
Whether this will change in the coming days remains to be seen.
Are you affected by Ryanair’s refusal to offer cash refunds? Have you got your money back from the low-cost carrier? Let us know in the comments.