Some Ryanair customers might be surprised to learn that they are entitled to a refund for holidays they couldn't take because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Airlines usually have no legal obligation to refund passengers who choose not to take a flight that is still operating. This means many customers have lost out after deciding not to travel because closed borders, accommodation cancellations or local lockdowns made their holiday impossible.
But anybody who booked a hotel, car hire or even certain kinds of tours through Ryanair at the same time as their flight will have inadvertently created a package holiday.
In some circumstances, this could mean they are entitled to a full refund whereas passengers with a flight-only booking are not.
Since July 2018, package holiday customers have had additional rights under the Package Travel Regulations. If you buy a package from Ryanair, it's responsible for the performance of the whole package - not just the flight.
However, Ryanair customers may not even been aware that they have a package holiday. The majority of large holiday firms - including BA Holidays, easyJet Holidays, Expedia, Jet2 Holidays, Love Holidays and On The Beach - send customers an Atol certificate confirming their package. But Ryanair packages are not Atol protected - they are covered by a different scheme regulated in Ireland.
Passengers who add a hotel, car hire, tour or event at the same time as their flight should receive a message informing them of their rights. At the bottom of the emails Ryanair send to customers who have booked a hotel along with the flight is the message: 'If you have booked a combination of travel services together (eg any two of flight, hotel or car hire), we will be fully responsible for the proper performance of the package.'
The vast majority of package holidays with flights sold in the UK are Atol protected, so you get your money back from a scheme regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) if your holiday company goes bust. You will also be repatriated if the company fails while you are on holiday.
But as Ryanair is based in Ireland, it isn't allowed to be part of the Atol scheme under EU rules. It is obliged to provide financial protection regulated by Ireland and has taken out insolvency protection with an insurance company associated with Lloyds of London. The company eDreams, which is based in Spain, and
After the Brexit transition, Ryanair and other EU holiday companies' package holidays sold to UK customers probably will need to be Atol protected (depending on the final agreement made by the government). That means it will have to pay £2.50 per passenger into the Air Travel Trust (Atol scheme) every time anyone based in the UK books a hotel or car hire with their flight.
In theory, this protection should be applied to all package holidays booked from 1 January 2021, but the Civil Aviation Authority has said that it may not enforce it initially, as long as EU-based holiday companies can demonstrate that they are in the process of applying for an Atol license.