Travel agents in Ireland report continued problems with issuing refunds to customers they have booked with budget carrier Ryanair, saying they have had issues with its “cumbersome mechanisms”.
The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) called on Ryanair to be “honest and truthful” with customers, and said its actions were threatening both bricks and mortar, and online, travel agents.
It criticised “ghost flights” operated by Ryanair “since the beginning of the pandemic” which went ahead with little or no passengers on board, meaning customers – who skipped their flights in order to adhere to travel restrictionswere – were not entitled to refunds because the flight went ahead.
“Customers are instead being offered the option to reschedule their holiday or receive a voucher from the airline,” said the ITAA, adding that it believes that “under current government advice relating to non-essential travel, these flights should be cancelled and the consumer should be refunded.”
The ITAA says its 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, according to the ITAA – which said its 100 or so agent members are owed “roughly €20 million” in refund payments from Ryanair altogether.
The ITAA said it has been in discussions with the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) to try and reach a solution and is liaising with the Irish Department of Transport as well as contacting Ryanair directly.
Pat Dawson, chief executive of the ITAA, said: “We want to work with Ryanair in getting customers refunded. But we have to go with Ryanair’s mechanisms, which are cumbersome.
“We ask our customers to be patient with us. We are securing refunds but it is taking time. Currently Irish travel agents are doing their best to secure refunds for customers as quickly as possible; consumer protection is our top priority. This issue continues to affect street-front travel agents in addition to online travel companies.
“Our member travel agents have been working solidly through the pandemic to assist customers with bookings. These companies could not simply close down, even though they were effectively blocked from trading, and instead have remained open to service customers with cancellations, refunds and rebooking holidays.
“ITAA member travel agents are not using the current situation as an excuse to avoid refunding customers; we respect and value our customers and we are calling on the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) and the Department of Transport to work with the ITAA to secure refunds for hard pressed consumers as quickly as possible.”