Despite Which? providing the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with 12,000 customer complaints about refunds for cancelled flights, the regulator is not taking any action over airlines that have broken the law.
Its review into airline refunds does detail those airlines which it has identified as 'not processing refund requests sufficiently quickly'. These include Ryanair and easyJet. It says it has received commitments from both airlines that they have and will 'reduce the time taken to process refunds'.
Which? continues to receive complaints from passengers of both airlines. In some cases customers have been waiting more than four months for a refund. The law says that refunds for flights cancelled by the airline should be paid within seven days.
The CAA will not be taking enforcement action against Ryanair or easyJet, despite millions of customers being affected by refused or delayed refunds.
Virgin Atlantic is also named by the CAA as a carrier that has not processed refunds quickly enough. It is currently telling customers they must wait 80 days for a refund. The CAA has said it will 'monitor Virgin's performance closely and will consider the use of formal enforcement powers if necessary'.
It was also clear that while some airlines, such as Jet2, had done a good job on refunds, several were clearly delaying or refusing refunds. In total, Ryanair customers were responsible for 44% of all the complaints received. EasyJet was the second-most complained about airline, with 14% of all complaints coming from its customers.
In response to the report, we have published the following statement.
'The regulator is failing the consumers it is supposed to protect. The reality is that people are still owed millions of pounds in refunds, are facing financial and emotional turmoil, and continue to be fobbed off by a number of airlines that have been brazenly breaking the law for months. These airlines will now feel they can continue to behave terribly having faced no penalty or sanction.
'It is obvious that the CAA does not have the right tools to take effective action against airlines that show disregard towards passengers and the law, but more worryingly, it's not clear the regulator has the appetite to use them.
'The government must use this opportunity to bring in much-needed reforms, including giving regulators greater powers to take swift and meaningful action, but consumers need assurances that these will actually be used against law-breaking companies.'