Europe’s largest low cost airline, Ryanair, faces demands to offer refunds to customers in financial difficulty after an apparent change of tack in policy.
The Irish Times reported that although the carrier won praise for its initial stance to refund customers, it is now asking customers by email to accept a voucher valid for 12 months.
Those customers that insist on a cash refund are being asked to join a refund queue until the COVID-19 emergency has passed. Ryanair did not respond to a request to comment.
Consumer watchdog Which? has been reminding customers of their rights under the EU package travel and denied boarding rules that require companies to refund within 14 days.
However, the travel industry in the UK and other European states have issued pleas for more time to process refunds and a change in the law to allow them to offer credit notes instead.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “Vouchers for future travel will be little use to passengers who desperately need a refund for their cancelled flights, many who may be in difficult financial circumstances of their own as a result of the outbreak.
“While these are difficult times for the travel industry, the law remains clear – Ryanair must offer its customers the option of a refund, and process it within a reasonable timeframe, to ensure those in vulnerable circumstances are not left out of pocket.”
The Irish Times said European rules on refunds “are on the brink of being suspended” in Ireland to alleviate the financial pressure on companies.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross was said to be looking for a ‘fair and commensurate’ response that does not materially undermine consumer rights.
Rules in many EU countries, including Germany, France and Italy, have already been amended in response to the unprecedented measures taken to curtail travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.