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Updated: 20 Apr 2020

Ryanair angers passengers with vouchers instead of refunds for cancelled flights

Those who do want their money back told to wait in the queue 'until the COVID-19 emergency has passed'.

Ryanair has joined the ranks of airlines ignoring the law on refunds for cancelled flights.

The airline was one of only a handful of carriers to include an automatic refund link on its website, albeit one that frequently failed. But it is now telling its customers to either accept a voucher for future travel or wait - potentially for a year or more - to get their money back.

Find more unbiased advice on travel and the coronavirus, award-winning investigations and legal advice on holiday refunds and cancelled flights with Which? Travel.

More of your questions answered in our coronavirus travel advice Q&A.

Even passengers who applied for their refund over a month ago report receiving an email with an unsolicited voucher.

'We highly recommend using the refund voucher,' it says, before going on to say: 'You can request a cash refund however bear in mind we will place your request in the cash refund queue until the COVID-19 emergency has passed.'

At present it is unclear when the COVID-19 emergency will have 'passed'.

EasyJet restores refund link but British Airways still putting passengers on hold

Ryanair's rival, easyJet, in contrast has recently restored an online link for its customers to claim a refund. British Airways is also offering a refund but forcing its customers to call its swamped customer services team to request it, which sometimes proves impossible.

Legally, while airlines don't have to pay compensation for cancellations caused by COVID-19, they are obliged to refund passengers within seven days.

How to get a refund from your airline

Despite what airlines and travel companies are telling their customers, the law has not changed. You are still entitled to a full refund if a European Union airline cancels a flight - or any airline cancels a flight from the European Union.

If you want a refund there is no need to feel pressured into accepting a voucher instead. However you should be prepared for a struggle to get your money back. Aside from legal action, if your airline refuses or makes it impossible for you to claim you have two options.

Taking your claim to an adjudication scheme

Some airlines are members of official adjudication schemes, which have the power to make legally binding rulings on whether you should receive a refund. While these are far from perfect they may be able to help.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has a list of which airlines are members of a scheme. Ryanair and Jet2 are not members, and complaints about them have to be brought to the CAA itself. Its online complaint form can be found here. The CAA's rulings, however, are not legally binding.

Claiming from your bank, credit card or paypal

While this isn't a magic solution, either, some passengers have reported success in making a chargeback claim from their bank, claiming from Paypal, or claiming on a credit card.

The law - Section 75 legislation - says that credit card providers may be liable when a product or service is not provided, if you've paid more than £100 and less than £30,000.

But it may not be enough if you simply can't get hold of your airline, or it is being evasive. Our experts think a section 75 claim is only worth trying if you have no other option.

Continue fighting for a refund

While it may seem impossible, numerous people have been refunded by the major airlines, so it is worth continuing to fight to get your money back.

If you do not urgently need the money, however, consider waiting to make your claim until call centres are less busy. Alternatively you could accept the voucher if you are likely to be able to use it later this year.