This budget airline is threatening to ban customers over refunds

Oct 13, 2021

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Ryanair is facing accusations of taking extraordinarily petty action against passengers who received refunds for flights canceled due to COVID-19 by way of credit card chargebacks. Specifically, the budget airline is said to be barring customers from boarding new flights unless they return the money they were refunded.

Several British passengers spoke to MoneySavingExpert about their experiences. People who had booked recent trips through Ryanair say they were later told they could only fly if they returned the refunds they had obtained through their credit card companies for travel booked from summer 2020. The refund amounts demanded by Ryanair ranged from 400 to 630 pounds ($546 to $860). One traveler says they were given the ultimatum just hours before their flight was due to board.

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A Ryanair spokesperson defended the company’s actions by pointing to its terms and conditions, according to the Guardian. “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.”

The flights in question had not been canceled, but the passengers decided not to take the flights booked during lockdown due to advice against nonessential travel by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Ryanair had continued flying many of its routes even though most people were legally unable to travel due to government travel restrictions. While it refused to give refunds for flights canceled due to COVID-19-related issues,  the no-frills airline did make a rare concession in its strict policies and allowed customers to change flights with no fees. That policy ended on Oct. 1, 2021.

While Ryanair believes its terms and conditions, which clearly state it does not offer refunds, give it legal standing, clearly credit card companies such as American Express disagree because they refunded the money for these passengers who initiated the chargeback. Experts agree there is a gray area here.

Related: Disputing a charge with the credit card issuer when the airline refused to refund

Making matters even more complicated, last week the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority dropped its probe into whether Ryanair and British Airways violated the law by not offering refunds to customers who could not legally fly because of COVID-19 restrictions. Officials did say that the airlines should have given customers their money back.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the process, a credit card chargeback is where you ask your credit or debit card firm for a refund for a service not provided, which it then charges back to the retailer’s bank. Because of the extraordinary situation involving the pandemic and the constantly changing travel rules and restrictions, U.K. credit card companies agreed that a refund was in order. It’s a beneficial step for customers in situations where they feel goods and services they agreed to pay for are not rendered.

What is not in debate is that by threatening to ban passengers from flying unless they give back refunds, Ryanair provides yet another reason for people to avoid the budget carrier. It already has one of the worst reputations in the airline industry for customer service, which many travelers tend to put aside due to the fares that sometimes can run as low as 5 pounds ($7) per flight.

However, this situation certainly won’t do its reputation any favors.

Featured photo by Horacio Villalobos/Getty Images.

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