Holidaymakers booked on flights to Cyprus are losing hundreds of pounds because Ryanair is refusing to refund them, even though coronavirus restrictions mean they are banned from flying to and entering the country.
Ryanair has recently relaunched six flights a week from Bournemouth, Liverpool and Stansted airports to Paphos. But Cyprus has banned British holidaymakers until at least until 1 August. Only Cypriot residents, Cypriot citizens and their immediate family members, plus a minority group of other passengers, are allowed to travel from the UK.
Sarah Hutchinson and her family were booked on one of Ryanair's first flights from Liverpool to Cyprus on Wednesday. She'd paid £1,345 for the flights in January.
'It took me five days to get through to Ryanair, then the woman just told me that they weren't offering refunds because the flights were going, but how could I get on the flight when I wouldn't have been allowed into Cyprus?', she said.
However, it had previously waived its standard terms and conditions and allowed customers to rebook for a later date without paying an administration fee. Ryanair customers with flights to Cyprus are being told they must pay the fee, and any fare difference if they want to rebook.
Nicola Loizidou was also due to fly from Liverpool to Paphos on 8 July and Ryanair charged her a 'change fee' of £270 to postpone her travel until May 2021, even though the new flights she booked were about £75 cheaper than her original flights, which cost at total of £809.
She told us: 'Ryanair said it wasn't their problem if I couldn't get in to Cyprus, they were just a carrier flying me from A to B, and they refused a refund for the higher fare or any credit against the change fee.'
A Ryanair spokesperson told us: 'For non-cancelled flights, standard T&Cs apply. Travel restrictions update regularly, so Ryanair urges all passengers to check the latest travel updates on the Ryanair website and with the relevant authorities before they fly.'
That advice won't help holidaymakers who booked flights months before travel restrictions were imposed. Those customers will either have to pay Ryanair more money to rebook, or lose the cost of the flight completely.
This week, easyJet will relaunch services to Paphos and Larnaca. It told us it's giving passengers the option to rebook, for free, to flights departing up to the end of October 2020. That includes an offer to waive any fare difference. But easyJet customers have faced confusion over the policy.
Some easyJet passengers told us they've been quoted hundreds of pounds to switch to other flights.
One customer said he was quoted an extra £500 to move his flights from July to August, even though the new flights were being advertised for £300 less than his original booking. EasyJet told us that any customers who have been charged to move their Cyprus flights due to the travel restriction will be refunded.
EasyJet customers are also struggling to get through to the airline to change their bookings.
One passenger said she's been trying for a week to call the airline, and that it hasn't responded to her emails or messages on social media either.
An easyJet spokesperson said: 'We are experiencing a high volume of enquiries as a result of COVID-19, compounded by local lockdown restrictions, which has led to reduced staffing levels in our customer contact centres and so unfortunately it may be taking longer than usual to get through.
'We have invested in extra resources to reduce our queues as quickly as possible. We would like to thank customers for their patience and understanding and reassure them that the option to change their flights to Cyprus for free will remain after their original flight has flown.'
British Airways has also resumed flights to Cyprus after the UK Foreign Office lifted its advice against non-essential travel to the island. But passengers due to fly with British Airways before the end of August can cancel any time up to the day of travel and receive a voucher for the value of the booking.