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Ryanair refusing refunds for November flights despite lockdown

Written by: Emma Lunn
The budget airline says it won’t be refunding flights scheduled for November, despite the UK government banning all but essential travel.

Ryanair said that if a flight was operating, passengers wouldn’t get their money back but they could change to a later flight without paying a fee.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive officer, said: “If a flight is operating then no, we will not be offering refunds.

“But what customers can avail of is our change facility and we’ve waived the change fee so if they have booking in November they can change it and move it to December or January if needs be. But there won’t be refunds on flights that are operating and travelling.”

The weekend saw prime minister Boris Johnson announce a second lockdown, to begin on Thursday following a vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday. The restrictions will remain in place until at least 2 December.

Under the rules, all but essential travel will be banned.

Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said: “While Ryanair has recently made some improvements, we still get more complaints about its handling of refunds than any other airline, including from a steady stream of passengers still struggling to get their money back.

“Trust in travel has taken a battering during the pandemic and questionable claims about an airline’s performance on refunds are hardly going to help matters. Ryanair now risks adding insult to injury by refusing to refund passengers who cannot fly this month because of the latest lockdown. The airline is only offering fee-free transfers to a later flight.

“Some airlines have consistently broken the rules and ignored warnings from the regulator which, without the ability to issue fines or take swift action, has been unable to enforce the law.  The government must urgently review the CAA’s powers as part of its aviation recovery plan, to ensure airlines do not feel empowered to brazenly break consumer law again in the future.”

O’Leary’s refusal to refund passengers not flying during the lockdown comes on the same day that Ryanair reported a first half loss of €197m (£178m).

The airline’s half year results noted that Covid-19 grounded the group’s entire fleet from mid-March to the end of June, before flights recommenced on 1 July with the airline operating up to 60% of the prior year’s capacity in Q2.

Ryanair blamed “uncoordinated” EU government flight restrictions in September and October, heavily curtailing travel to and from much of Europe, as to why passenger confidence and forward bookings were negatively impacted.

It also blamed delayed to processing refunds on unlicensed online travel agents and said many of these agents “provided false customer contact and fake payment details at the time of booking”.

The Covid-19 crisis has already caused the closure of a number of EU airlines including Flybe, Germanwings and Level as well as deep long-term capacity reductions at many others.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘’Ryanair’s descent into loss shows just how dramatically the Covid crisis has reversed the fortunes of airlines. Before the pandemic hit, the budget airliner was riding high on demand for low cost flights across Europe. But passenger numbers have nosedived by 80% and the turbulence over the winter months is just going to get worse as new lockdowns restrict travel even further.

“Ryanair has added fresh notes of discord to the chorus of disapproval from the industry about the way European governments have handled quarantine rules. England’s new nationwide lockdown coming into force on Thursday is yet another body blow. Already airline crews have had to take painful cuts to pay and conditions, which has helped Ryanair limit operating losses to €177m for the six months to September.”

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