Europe’s biggest budget airline insists passengers on cancelled flights can still get a refund – even though it appears to be offering only vouchers for future travel.
Passengers whose flights have been grounded as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are entitled to a full cash refund within a week of the departure date.
Under the European air passengers’ rights rules, vouchers are only acceptable “with the signed agreement of the passenger”.
Ryanair has cancelled almost all its flights during the coronavirus pandemic.
Early on in the Covid-19 crisis, Ryanair offered online refunds, and was more customer-friendly than its main rivals, British Airways and easyJet.
The Irish carrier wrote to passengers promising: “Refunds will be processed within 20 working days back to the form of payment used for the original booking.”
In contrast, its competitors removed the option to request a refund online and steered passengers to accepting a flight voucher; easyJet has since reintroduced the option of a cash refund online, while BA requires passengers to call the airline.
In the second week of April, passengers were warned that refunds would be delayed. Ryanair said: “Our customer services team are experiencing an unprecedented high volume of requests due to the Covid-19 crisis and we are prioritising our most vulnerable customers.
“This has been compounded by government public health restrictions on non-essential work travel which means we have less staff available to us during this busy time.
“Please rest assured your refund request is currently in the queue and will be processed.”
But now it has made an about-turn, telling passengers: “Please see below details of your travel voucher for the full value of your unused booking.
“This amount can be used for the purchase of Ryanair flights and other services at any time over the next 12 months.”
A spokesperson for Ryanair told The Independent: “For any cancelled flight, Ryanair is giving customers all of the options set out under EU regulations, including refunds.”
But a passenger, Jamie Bowden, who was booked on a Ryanair service from Italy to Armenia on Monday, said: “Click on the link to ‘get a refund’ and you get, ‘Vouchers, please have a voucher, any colour any time you want but please just have a f****** voucher’.”
The Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for enforcing the European air passengers’ rights rules. The Independent has asked the CAA if it will take action against Ryanair or other carriers.