Travel agents dispute Michael O’Leary’s claim on Ryanair refunds

TRAVEL agents have taken issue with claims by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary that every customer who has requested a refund has received it.

Mr O’Leary denied there were still delays with refunds for cancelled flights.

Last year there was a storm of protest by the airline’s customers over long delays and difficulties getting money back for flights they did not take.

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Mr O’Leary told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland: “Every customer who has requested a refund has received it.

“There are some with vouchers who have the option of a cash refund if they want it – they will receive it within five days. There is no backlog in refunds – all have now been issued.”

But the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) contradicted this, saying travel agents continue to have problems accessing flight refunds from Ryanair.

It said the issue continues to affect bricks and mortar travel agents and online travel agents alike. The ITAA’s chief executive Pat Dawson asked Ryanair “to be honest and truthful with the public with regards to refunds”, to ensure that affected customers are reimbursed for disrupted or cancelled flights.

He said that since the beginning of the pandemic many consumers have postponed or cancelled their holidays in line with restrictions on non-essential travel.

However, as these ‘ghost flights’ still went ahead with little to no passengers on board, they are not being offered a refund on their booking.

“Customers are instead being offered the option to reschedule their holiday or receive a voucher from the airline.

“The ITAA believes that under current Government advice relating to non-essential travel, these flights should be cancelled and the consumer should be refunded,” he said.

ITAA said member travel agents have sent in thousands of claims to Ryanair in order to refund their customers with affected flight bookings, with the airline withholding refunds to travel agents and customers alike.

Those affected include a small travel agent in Munster owed €60,000, a travel agent specialising in school tours waiting for refunds of €500,000, and a prominent travel agency waiting on refunds for 1,400 customers.

Overall, ITAA member travel agents are currently owed roughly €20m in refund payments from Ryanair, Mr Dawson claimed.

The ITAA said it has been in discussion with the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) to try and reach a solution, as well as liaising with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and contacting Ryanair directly.

The association said that funds held by licensed travel agents are guaranteed by the State in case of insolvency, offering further protection to customers if a tavel agent or tour operator becomes insolvent and goes out of business.

Last month Ryan dismissed as “fake news” a survey that rated it and Virgin Atlantic the worst airlines for customer service by people who tried to get a refund after their flight was cancelled.

The two airlines scored “abysmally low” in a survey conducted by British consumer magazine ‘Which? Travel’.

Eight out of 10 customers said they were dissatisfied with the refund service they received after their flight was cancelled last year.

Ryanair was persistently criticised last year in this country for delays in paying refunds and giving people vouchers when they specifically requested their money back.