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18 Mar 2020

Ryanair coronavirus refund system failing passengers

Holidaymakers spend hours on live chat as all major airlines struggle

Ryanair's customer service response has been overwhelmed as passengers complain that its refund system is not working.

Following the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice against all but essential travel from the UK for the next 30 days, Ryanair and most other airlines have announced that they're grounding the majority of their flights. Around 80% are cancelled between now and Tuesday and after that it says few if any will continue to fly. Just those necessary for 'essential connections between the UK and Ireland.'

Ryanair is advising passengers with cancelled flights to apply for a refund online. But customers are struggling to make the refund system work.One passenger, Joanna Pearl, told us that she was due to fly to France tomorrow. The flight was cancelled but when she tried to claim a refund she repeatedly received a message saying that the flight number was wrong.

Numerous other Ryanair passengers have reported similar issues on social media. With so many of people trying to contact customer service, they've also reported waits of up to six hours to receive a reply from its Live Chat.

No refunds, despite being unable to fly

Many customers assume that the FCO advice means that they should get an automatic refund for any booking. But if the flight is still being operated the airlines are not obliged to refund passengers - and instead are offering them the option of re-booking for a later date.

Some easyJet customers were angry that they could only rebook as far ahead as October 2020 but it has now released ticket sales for up to the end of February 2021.

Ryanair customers that have not received a message to say their flight is cancelled can go to 'Manage my booking' and rearrange their flight for a later date. But they will have to pay the difference if the new flight is more expensive.

What happens if your flight is cancelled or you can't fly?

British Airways is offering passengers who can't fly vouchers for future travel which are valid for up to a year, but no refunds are available unless flights are cancelled.

The advice for Ryanair customers with a cancelled flight is to keep trying to apply for your refund. If your flight is not imminent then it's probably worth waiting to a later date, when the system may be less busy. Some passengers have reported that they have had success after repeated tries.

We approached Ryanair for a comment but received an automated reply that it is not currently responding to press queries, as it is prioritising customer communications.