Ryanair has come under fire after revealing that cash refunds could take a year to be processed.
Europe’s largest no-frills carrier is pushing vouchers as an alternative for cancelled flights while admitting that cash refunds cannot be automated.
But consumer group Which? attacked the airline for showing a “blatant disregard” to customers.
Ryanair said: “The processing time for cash refunds is taking far longer than normal as we are processing over 1,000 times the normal volume of cancellations.
“We also have 75% fewer staff available to process refunds due to social distancing restrictions.
“Ryanair is offering vouchers and free moves as these are automated and give customers an immediate alternative.
“Unfortunately, cash refunds cannot be automated.
“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.
“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.”
The airline apologised for the “unavoidable refund delays”.
It blamed “the unprecedented volume of government-imposed flight cancellations” with 99% of its aircraft grounded.
Which?: Ryanair showing ‘blatant disregard for customers’
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “This latest shift in Ryanair’s refund policy shows blatant disregard for the many customers who have been strung along by the airline while they desperately try to get their money back.
“Ryanair’s repeated attempts to push vouchers on customers who have been clear that they want the refund they are legally entitled to are completely unacceptable.
“It is time for the CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] to get tough with the many airlines openly flouting the law and those playing fast and loose with the rules.
“The government must set out how it intends to support airlines so they can meet their legal obligations and refund their passengers.”
Ryanair has extended a limited flight schedule for two weeks until May 14 including connections to Dublin from seven UK airports and flights from Stansted to Cork and four destinations on the continent – Berlin, Budapest, Eindhoven and Lisbon.
Thirteen destinations are being served from the Irish capital.
“With low loads and cashless flights, social distancing is being optimised on board and we ask all passengers to co-operate fully with our crews who are doing their best in difficult times to maintain vital links,” Ryanair said.