Specialist tour operator Simpson Travel has lodged a complaint with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority as it seeks help in its pursuit of refunds from Ryanair worth £46,000.

The dispute relates to flights the tour operator had booked for its customers with the budget airline that were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and sold on as part of a package holiday.

Under package travel regulations, the organiser of a package holiday – usually the tour operator – is liable for the refund.

Simpson Travel argues that Ryanair should refund it the value of those flights which make up part of the package alongside other elements, so it can fully refund its customers under the regulations.

Ryanair has consistently said it does not recognise third party companies booking its flights and selling them on to customers.

It has been embroiled in a row with the Irish Travel Agents Association over the role of travel agents this week, after the group accused the airline of owing refunds worth a collective €20 million to its members’ customers.

Ryanair says customers must contact the airline directly, using its online customer verification forms, to obtain a refund for a flight cancelled as a result of Covid-19 – and has claimed some third parties have not passed on refund monies to customers.

Simpson Travel’s operations director, Ed Pyke, said: “In some cases, it has been ten months since we received notification that Ryanair flights were cancelled, and although we have been through all the processes of rejecting vouchers that have been issued to us and using the forms on the Ryanair website to apply for cash refunds, we are still no further forward in getting the money owing back. I have also written to Ryanair and have not received a response.”

Founder Graham Simpson added: “I encourage other tour operators to approach the CAA for help in bringing this matter to a swift conclusion and demanding that Ryanair honour their legal obligation to provide refunds for cancelled flights.”

A Ryanair spokesman said: “Ryanair has no liability or debt to any travel agent, who make unauthorised bookings on our website in breach of Ryanair’s terms and conditions. Under EU261 regulation all refunds are due to passengers only.”

Ryanair believes third parties have “overcharged” customers by adding fees to the direct fares available on its site and that tour operators and travel agents were “aware” of its refunds process – which the ITAA described earlier this week as “cumbersome”.

Ryanair, however, said insisting customers claim refunds directly will “expose” that fares are higher than that paid to Ryanair because of what the airline calls “hidden or excessive fees”.

Agents have said their fees are transparent, and most tour operators factor their costs into the overall package holiday price which would include other elements such as hotels, transfers, cruises, tours and activities, and other ancillary products.

  • Meanwhile, the ITAA said it has agreed to meet with Ireland’s Joint Committee on Transport and Communications Networks on Tuesday February 9 to discuss airline refunds among a range of issues faced by the Irish travel industry as a result of Covid-19 and related restrictions.

The delegation will also meet with two ministers the following Tuesday, February 16, to discuss support they argue is required for travel agents in the coming months.

ITAA chief executive Pat Dawson said: “Our industry is in a unique situation in which we have been forced to cease trading for an indefinite period of time due to the outbreak of Covid-19, yet we still have to pay rents and salaries and remain open in order to provide day-to-day assistance to our customers.”