Is Ryanair right to ban customers who don’t return Covid refunds?

Is Ryanair right to ban customers who don’t return Covid refunds?

Irish low-cost airline Ryanair has been in the news a lot recently. According to multiple news agencies, customers who received chargeback refunds after cancelling trips due to the pandemic are being barred from travelling with the airline unless they return the money.

So, is Ryanair right to be taking such action? And what are your options as a passenger if you have been denied boarding for receiving a chargeback refund? Let’s take a look.

Who does the Ryanair ban apply to?

The ban applies to passengers who bought non-refundable tickets for Ryanair flights that flew as scheduled during the pandemic, but who chose not to fly due to advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).  

These customers then requested a chargeback from their credit card companies. A chargeback is actually one of the perks of using credit cards to make payments. It’s essentially a function that allows you to request a refund from a provider for a product or service that was not provided or a purchase that somehow went wrong.

About a thousand Ryanair customers received a refund through this function during the pandemic. Many reportedly turned to this option after first asking for a refund from Ryanair and being refused.

Ryanair is now barring these customers from flying unless they refund the money. Consumer website, MoneySavingExpert (MSE), reports that some holidaymakers have been asked to send back funds ranging between £400 and £630 to be allowed to fly again with the airline.

What has Ryanair said?

Ryanair is standing firm behind its actions. It says its terms and conditions allow it to refuse service to customers who owe them money.

A spokesperson for the company said: “There is a tiny minority of passengers … who purchased non-refundable tickets on Ryanair flights which operated as scheduled during Covid-19 but who chose not to travel, and then unlawfully processed chargebacks via their credit card company.”

The spokesperson added that these passengers “will be required to settle their outstanding debt before they will be allowed to fly with Ryanair again.”

Is Ryanair within its rights to bar these customers?

If an airline that you have booked with cancels your flight, you are well within your rights to ask for a refund. Some airlines might propose an alternative such as re-booking another time. You’re still entitled to a refund, however.

Where the rules become murky is when a customer cancels a booked trip of their own volition (perhaps due to FCDO advice) and the trip still goes ahead.

The view of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is that you are not guaranteed refunds for flights when an FCDO warning is in place, though a refund is not completely impossible.

But according to a couple of experts that MSE spoke to, regardless of whether Ryanair was right to deny customers the initial refunds, banning them from flying until they pay the money back is wrong.

One expert quoted by the consumer website said: “The financial institution that awarded the chargeback clearly believed that Ryanair was in breach of contract and that the consumers were entitled to a refund, in which case it would seem unreasonable for the company to try to reclaim the money for flights the consumers could not take.”

What are your options if you are barred from flying?

According to MSE, there are unconfirmed reports of Ryanair backing down and apparently removing payment demands from some customers. It appears this happened after they contested the requirement to repay refunds to be allowed to fly.

So, if you have been affected by the current situation, you can try to complain directly to Ryanair. There is no guarantee that it will work, but it doesn’t hurt to try. If that’s not successful, you could opt to pay the chargeback refund so you can continue with your travel plans. 

The other option is to simply use another airline to travel. Just remember that if you plan to travel with Ryanair again in the future, you’ll likely face the same problem.

It’s always a good idea to take out travel insurance as soon as you book flights. Depending on your policy, you could be protected if you have to cancel a trip due to FCDO advice. Of course, it’s important to read the fine print of your policy carefully to be sure.

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