Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary’s claim that ‘every single customer who has requested a cash refund has now received it from March, April, May, June and July’ is untrue, research by Which? has found.
Mr O’Leary told BBC Radio 5 Live this week that every passenger who booked direct with the airline has been refunded for cancellations up to the end of August. But Ryanair customers have told Which? they are still waiting for refunds they requested for cancellations from April to June. Despite asking for a refund, they were issued vouchers.
In response, Ryanair told Which? that it automatically issued vouchers to customers and that these vouchers then enabled customers to claim cash refunds.
Under EU law, which still applies in the UK, airlines must refund passengers within seven days of cancelling a flight from any EU airport once the passenger requests the refund. Vouchers should not be automatically issued. Airlines instead are required to obtain the signed consent of passengers agreeing to accept a voucher.
Ryanair potentially breaking EU law by sending customers vouchers they don’t want
Ryanair says it has refunded 1.5bn euros since the start of the pandemic, but this includes vouchers which the airline automatically emails to all customers whose flights have been cancelled, including those who have previously asked for their money back.
Ryanair claims these vouchers enable customers to request cash refunds if they wish. While Ryanair says millions of customers have accepted a voucher, it also admits that millions of customers have rejected them.
By sending vouchers in the first instance though, even after customers have requested a refund, Ryanair is placing the burden on its customers to apply twice for the refunds to which they are entitled.
Warren applied to Ryanair for a refund through the Ryanair website at the end of March after his flights to Tenerife in April were cancelled. He initially received an email from Ryanair saying that his refund was being processed, but in May it sent him a voucher for the £2,028.80 cost of the flights, with no instructions on how to exchange this for cash.
Ryanair admits that Warren didn’t receive a link to reject the vouchers. It claims it never received the two emails he sent Ryanair asking where his cash refund was. Only after Which? challenged Ryanair, did it arrange for Warren to receive the refund he was entitled to.
Robert was also emailed a voucher after he had applied via the airline’s website for a refund for flights to France that were cancelled in May. His email from Ryanair in June included a link to reject the voucher, which he says he did, but he heard nothing more until Which? raised his case with Ryanair. Ryanair told Which? that Robert never rejected the voucher, so it didn’t refund him. After we approached Ryanair about Robert’s refund of almost £500, it has since been paid.
Under EU law airlines should only issue vouchers in lieu of refunds with the customers’ signed consent. Ryanair did not gain this consent from Warren and Robert when it automatically issued them with vouchers.
Michael O’Leary wasn’t aware of these cases when he made his comments.
Ryanair customers struggle to exchange vouchers for cash
Ryanair says customers can request a cash refund as an alternative to a voucher ‘simply by clicking on the cash refund link in their emails’. Michael O’Leary said refunds are now being processed ‘within three to four days’. Ryanair said it was not in breach of Regulation EU261 and that cash refunds had been paid ‘in their millions’ upon request.
But Ryanair admits Warren was sent an email without a link and other customers have told us that even after they clicked on the links to request a refund they were sent further emails reminding them to use their vouchers. Even some customers whose refund requests have been acknowledged by Ryanair have been waiting weeks if not months for their money.
When Matt’s flights to Faro were cancelled, he was emailed vouchers in May. He says it wasn’t until September that he received another email from Ryanair with an option to convert the vouchers to cash – which he didn’t see until 29 October – but he was then told that he’d have to wait up to three weeks for his refund.
A Ryanair spokesperson confirmed his booking was due to be refunded ‘within 14 working days’. Regulation EU261 says airlines should refund within seven days. He has since received his refund within that period.
Ryanair blames third-party ‘screen-scraper’ websites for refund delays
Michael O’Leary also told BBC Radio 5: ‘Ryanair has no backlog in our refunds department at all, that’s a fact.’ But he also said that a ‘tiny’ amount of refunds can’t be processed because customers booked through third-party ‘screen-scraper’ websites, which he said provided Ryanair with fake customer details and fake payment details.
A Ryanair spokesperson said: ‘To help passengers whose refunds are being blocked by these unlicensed screen-scrapers, we have set up a customer verification process on Ryanair.com that will allow us to deal with those passengers directly.’
Ryanair says it refunded some of these customers months ago but claims the website are sitting on the cash.
Is Ryanair the ‘best in the industry’ on refunds?
Michael O’Leary told BBC 5 Live: ‘If you have applied to us for a cash refund for a flight you booked in March, April, May, June and July you have received it.’ He said the airline had hired extra staff to process refunds, adding that its refund procedure was ‘the best in the industry’.
In July Which? analysed more than 12,000 complaints about flight refunds from passengers and found that more than four in 10 were about Ryanair. We subsequently supplied this data to the Civil Aviation Authority. It identified Ryanair as one of a limited number of airlines that was not paying refunds sufficiently quickly’.