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Ryanair has been accused of barring passengers who pursued chargebacks against the airline during the pandemic from taking new flights this year – unless they return their refunds.
An investigation by MoneySavingExpert (MSE) has found that holidaymakers who sought refunds from their credit card provider have faced last-minute demands of up to £600 if they want to board a Ryanair plane.
During the lockdowns, Ryanair carried on flying many of its routes even though most tourists were in effect barred by government rules from travelling.
Watch: Airline refunds - what are your rights as a consumer?
The airline refused to refund affected passengers unable to travel, leading many to successfully seek chargebacks from their credit card company, in particular American Express.
Three of those passengers, who went on to make new bookings with Ryanair to travel this year, have been told they can only fly Ryanair again if they return the sum reclaimed. One passenger was given this ultimatum just hours before they were due to fly.
MSE said in at least two instances Ryanair’s fraud department had demanded the refunds of between £400 and £630. MSE said it has seen dozens of similar cases on its consumer forum and on social media.
Ryanair has defended its stance, claiming it has always been a “no-refunds airline” when the flight went ahead and that its terms and conditions allow its position. In May last year MSE reported that some Ryanair staff had threatened to blacklist passengers who used chargeback to get a refund, something the airline denied at the time.
Guy Anker, MSE’s deputy editor, said: “This is absolutely outrageous behaviour from Ryanair. It essentially had these passengers over a barrel shortly before their holiday at a point which turned excitement into stress and anxiety. To let them book a holiday and only tell them this news at the last minute shows no regard for fellow human beings.”
He said the affected passengers said Ryanair had offered to return the money for this year’s flights if they did not repay the chargeback, but they stood to lose hundreds of pounds in accommodation, car hire and Covid testing costs if they did not travel.
MSE’s campaigns team has now flagged the cases to the Civil Aviation Authority.
A Ryanair spokesperson said: “Ryanair flights that operate as scheduled are non-refundable – this is clearly outlined in Ryanair’s T&Cs agreed by the customer at the time of booking. They state that we may refuse to carry you if you owe us any money in respect of a previous flight owing to payment having been dishonoured, denied or recharged against us.”
Last week the Competition and Markets Authority dropped its investigation into whether British Airways and Ryanair broke the law by failing to offer refunds to customers who could not legally take their flights because of restrictions. It said at the time that the airlines should have given them their money back.
Watch: Regulator closes BA-Ryanair COVID refunds probe on 'lack of legal clarity'