“Looks like Ryanair are changing the goal posts again,” said passenger Lisa Shakeshaft. “I wonder if they’re trying to put off a cash refund for a year?”
Danielle Koop tweeted: “Ryanair are you honestly taking the mick? I don’t want my money in a year, I want it now. You are not a savings account don’t act like one. You are effectively holding my money hostage.“
The law says that when an airline cancels a flight, it must refund the ticket price within a week. But with millions of flights grounded because of the Covid-19, airlines have struggled to meet their obligations under European air passengers’ rights rules.
Initially Ryanair – Europe’s biggest budget airline – told passengers whose flights were cancelled: “You can choose between a full refund of the cost of your ticket, or the option of re-routing.”
Ryanair promised passengers they would get their money back within 20 working days. Ten days later, the Irish carrier said: “Please rest assured your refund request is currently in the queue and will be processed.”
After a further 10 days, Ryanair said: “Customers who choose not to accept a free move or voucher will receive their refund in due course, once this crisis has passed. Over the coming weeks and months, we will be working hard to process refund requests as quickly as we can.”
But the Irish carrier has now added to the confusion. Thousands of passengers who are owed money have received an email that appears to say they must accept a voucher.
The email sent out to passengers reads: “Please note that this voucher is valid for 12 months, and can be used for your future travel plans, please note that if you do not use the voucher before the expiry date you will receive a full cash refund.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Ryanair has cancelled more than 300,000 flights, affecting more than 40 million journeys.
The Independent understands that the confusion has arisen because the latest email is a reminder of the supposed virtues of a voucher rather than rescinding the right to a refund.
An airline spokesperson said: “The process time for cash refunds is taking longer due to the fact we are having to process 10,000 times the usual volume of cancellations and have fewer staff available due to social distancing measures.
“Ryanair is offering vouchers and free moves as these are automated and would give customers an alternative.
“Customers who choose a voucher but don’t redeem it within 12 months may still apply for and obtain a refund after this 12 month period. This also includes partial redemption, as the portion of the unused voucher will be refunded.
“Customers who choose not to accept a free move or voucher will be refunded in due course, once this unprecedented crisis is over.
“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and we thank our customers for bearing with us.”