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Watchdog inquiry

CMA probes airlines’ refusal to offer refunds

Ryanair

Ryanair offered an option to re-book

The Competition and Markets Authority is investigating whether British Airways and Ryanair have broken consumer law by failing to offer refunds for flights customers could not legally take.

During periods of lockdown across the UK, British Airways and Ryanair refused to give refunds to people that were lawfully unable to fly, with British Airways offering vouchers or rebooking and Ryanair providing the option to rebook.

The CMA is concerned that, by failing to offer people their money back, both firms may have breached consumer law and left people unfairly out of pocket.

It is now seeking to resolve these concerns with the companies, which may include seeking refunds, or other redress, for affected customers.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “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.  

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“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.”

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell said: “It should come as a surprise to no-one that Ryanair and British Airways are still being dragged over the coals by the Competition and Markets Authority over the way they tried to squirm out of refunding customers who couldn’t fly during the pandemic.

“Their actions did them no favours at the time, making customers angry and potentially alienating many people from flying with them again.

“That said, a lot of people declared at the start of the Covid crisis that they wouldn’t use businesses which treated staff or customers unfairly during the pandemic, such as airlines and pub operator Wetherspoon. However, the backlash against such companies seems to have quickly faded.

“Ryanair and British Airways were trying to avoid handing back cash at a time when their finances were under severe pressure and it will be up to the courts to decide if they broke the law by pushing vouchers instead of cash refunds.

“They’re still operating under severe restrictions, so the natural response from the airlines would be to criticise the CMA probe, implying it is kicking an industry which is already on its knees.

“Aside from potentially losing business in the future from irate travellers turning their backs on the airlines, the worst-case scenario might be compensation for some affected customers. The airlines would kick and scream, but ultimately they would pay and move on.”



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