The majority of Ryanair passengers surveyed who have asked for a refund for a cancelled flight during the coronavirus crisis are still waiting for their money back, according to new research from Which?.
Which? surveyed nearly 2,800 airline customers that had flights cancelled since mid-March as a result of the global pandemic, to find out about their experience with their airline. Of those, over 1,600 people told Which? they asked their airline for a cash refund.
Ryanair was the worst of the UK’s four biggest airlines for processing refunds for cancelled flights, with 84 per cent of those who asked for a refund telling Which? they have still not received their money back.
Just five per cent of Ryanair customers surveyed said they had their money returned to them within seven days – the time frame that EU carriers are legally obliged to process refunds within. Only one in six (16%) Ryanair customers have received a refund at all.
Ryanair customers have continuously complained to the consumer champion about the airline’s approach to processing refunds, with numerous changes to its approach to refunds confusing customers of their options.
Despite initially telling customers it was processing refunds at the beginning of the crisis, customers reported that Ryanair provided refund forms that didn’t work, before attempting to force vouchers on passengers who had specifically requested refunds. It also repeatedly changed the timeframe for receiving a refund, suggesting at one point customers may have to wait up to 12 months for their money back.
Easyjet customers also reported finding it difficult to get a refund. Just one in seven (14%) Easyjet customers received a refund within seven days, and around three in five (63%) are still waiting for their money back.
In contrast, a quarter (23%) of British Airways customers and one in five (19%) Jet2 customers are still waiting for their money back, with four in 10 (39%) BA customers receiving their money back within the legal time frame, and three in 10 (29%) Jet2 customers refunded within the seven day window.
British Airways has previously been criticised for its approach to refunding customers, removing its online form for requesting a refund and instead directing customers to a phone line where they are often unable to speak to someone due to high call volumes.
Which? recently revealed that trust in the travel industry has reached an all-time low, with data from its Consumer Insight tracker showing that trust in airlines and holiday companies has dropped to its lowest score on record in the seven years the consumer champion has collected the data, following airlines’ handling of refunds for cancelled flights.
Following the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announcing its investigation into airlines’ handling of refunds, Which? has launched a tool to allow consumers to report their airline to the regulator if they have been unable to get a refund for a cancelled flight, and is encouraging people to share their experiences.
Which? has also repeatedly called on the government to step in with urgent support for the industry, to allow airlines and holiday companies the financial means to refund their customers without fear of going bust, and to help restore trust in the travel industry.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:
“We have heard from thousands of frustrated passengers who have told us they are finding it almost impossible to get refunds they are legally entitled to from airlines, with some having waited months now without a penny returned to them.
“Some airlines are doing much better than others at refunding their customers, proving that while these are indeed difficult times for the industry, withholding customers’ money from them is simply inexcusable.
“The regulator and government cannot sit on their hands any longer. The CAA must urgently hold airlines that are brazenly breaking the law to account, and the government must set out how it will support the industry where necessary if airlines are unable to refund their customers without fear of going under.”
Notes to editors:
- Which? surveyed 2,779 adults – members of the Which? Connect panel and the general public – who had a flight cancelled between mid March and early May. The survey was conducted between the 6th and 13th of May 2020.
- Data is based on responses from 1,632 people who accepted or applied for a full cash refund. Samples for UK’s four biggest airlines (excluding “don’t know” responses):
- British Airways – 254
- Easyjet – 337
- Jet2.com – 129
- Ryanair – 151
- Report your airline to the regulator: https://action.which.co.uk/page/s/flight-complaint
- To view Which?’s full 10-point plan for government, visit: https://www.which.co.uk/trustintravel
- Travel rights Q&A video: https://youtu.be/6QKlx4kcTuA
|Time taken to refund||British Airways||Easyjet||Jet2.com||Ryanair|
|Within 7 days||39%||14%||29%||5%|
|Refund not yet received||23%||63%||19%||84%|
NB: Percentages rounded to nearest whole number.
Rights of replies:
A spokesperson for British Airways said:
“If a customer’s flight has been cancelled, they should call us to discuss their options. They can rebook, refund or choose to take a voucher to fly at a later date. Refunds can be
requested at any point up to 12 months after the start date of the journey.”
A spokesperson for Easyjet said:
“Customers on cancelled flights can transfer to an alternative flight free of charge or receive a voucher for the value of their booking online. Customers may also request a refund by submitting a claim in writing via a dedicated refund webform, online. We are processing refunds for customers and aim to do so in less than 28 days.”
A spokesperson for Jet2 said:
“In view of the ongoing travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we have taken the decision to recommence our flights and holidays programme on July 1st. The health and safety of our customers and colleagues is our absolute priority, and we are continuing to monitor the situation very closely.
“Like all other airlines and tour operators, the restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have impacted us. With aircraft grounded, our focus has been on looking after the many thousands of customers whose flights and holidays have been affected, and we are very proud to have been repeatedly praised by customers, media outlets, industry commentators and consumer organisations for how we have been treating customers in response to the pandemic.
“We are continuing to operate a fully staffed call centre, and even though our teams are subject to the same difficulties and restrictions as everyone else, they are working tirelessly to proactively contact customers in departure date order to discuss their options. We believe that contacting customers in departure date order is the fairest way to deal with this, and the feedback we have received tells us this has been the right thing to do.
“We understand that these unprecedented events have had a huge impact on our customers, and we would like to thank them for their loyalty, understanding and patience.”
Ryanair did not respond to Which?’s request for comment