Abta insists customers should be entitled to airline refunds “irrespective of how the booking was made” and has confirmed multiple complaints about Ryanair’s refusal to refund via third parties.

The budget carrier has long insisted it does not recognise travel agents and tour operators, and during the pandemic has said customers must claim refunds directly using forms on its website.

Simpson Travel last week said Ryanair owed it £46,000 in refunds for cancelled flights that were part of package holidays that Simpson had sold as ‘organiser’ and for which Simpson was therefore liable to refund customers.

But Ryanair argues it “has no liability or debt to any third-party travel agent or tour operator” and said any such bookings were “unauthorised”. It insists “all refunds are due to passengers only”, under EU Regulation 261.

An Abta spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic, certain airlines have performed better than others in refunding customers for cancelled bookings. We have received complaints from members in relation to bookings made with Ryanair, where refunds would only be made if the customer has completed a customer verification form.”

Abta insisted customers are entitled to a refund “irrespective of how the booking was made”, and within seven days, under EU Regulation 261.

Last week, the Irish Travel Agents’ Association (ITAA) accused Ryanair of owing €20 million in refunds to its members’ customers – a combination of package and direct bookings made for flights that were cancelled due to Covid-19.

Ryanair claimed it had “no backlog of consumer refunds” because it had repaid every customer who booked direct and requested a valid refund. It accused the trade of charging “excessive fees” and “failing to communicate” the process to clients.

But the ITAA defended members’ fees, described Ryanair as “disingenuous” for not recognising third parties as its fares are available via GDSs, and criticised the airline’s refunds policy as “cumbersome”.

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