Ryanair and BA investigated for refusing refunds during pandemic

9 June 2021, 07:31 | Updated: 9 June 2021, 11:12

Ryanair and BA are being investigated for refusing refunds during the pandemic
Ryanair and BA are being investigated for refusing refunds during the pandemic. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

British Airways (BA) and Ryanair are being investigated over whether they breached consumer laws by not offering refunds for flights that were operating but customers could not take due to the Covid pandemic.

The two airlines are facing a probe into whether they broke competition laws over the decision to not give refunds to people "lawfully unable to fly" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Enforcement action has been launched by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which said it was concerned the move had left customers "unfairly out of pocket".

The CMA said it had written to the firms in a bid to resolve the concerns "which may include seeking refunds, or other redress, for affected customers".

Investigators will also consider whether refunds should have been issued where flights took place but non-essential travel was banned due to lockdown restrictions.

During the pandemic, BA offered consumers vouchers or rebookings, while Ryanair provided the option to rebook, the CMA added.

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Legally, customers are entitled to a cash refund within 14 days.

Chief executive Andrea Coscelli added: "While we understand that airlines have had a tough time during the pandemic, people should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law.

"Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances entirely outside of their control.

"We believe these people should have been offered their money back."

The agency added that it should not be assumed either airline has broken the law.

Meanwhile, a BA spokeswoman said the firm has given more than three million refunds.

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She added: "We continue to offer? highly flexible booking policies at the same time as operating a vastly reduced schedule due to government-imposed travel restrictions, and we have acted lawfully at all times.

"It is incredible that the government is seeking to punish further an industry that is on its knees, after prohibiting airlines from meaningful flying for well over a year now.

"Any action taken against our industry will only serve to destabilise it, with potential consequences for jobs, business, connectivity and the UK economy."

It comes after the CMA launched enforcement action against several package holiday firms, forcing them to agree to offer cash refunds to customers.

Last month, Teletext Holidays and Alpharooms agreed to hand back £7 million to customers who saw their holidays cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It follows similar agreements made by LoveHolidays, Lastminute.com, Virgin Holidays and Tui UK, after thousands of customers complained that the companies had failed to refund them for cancelled trips.

The travel sector has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic and has faced the most scrutiny from the CMA, which wrote to more than 100 firms reminding them of their responsibility to process all refunds within 14 days by law for any cancellations.