Customers awaiting refunds have expressed frustration over voucher offers and what they claim are difficulties contacting the airline
Ryanair is giving customers of cancelled flights "all of the options" set out under EU regulations, it claims.
The airline today responded to a growing furore over what passengers claim are difficulties contacting it for refunds.
“For any cancelled flight, Ryanair is giving customers all of the options set out under EU regulations, including free moves and refunds in the form of cash or vouchers," it says.
"The process time for cash refunds is taking longer due to the fact that we are having to process 10,000 times the usual volume and have fewer staff available due to social distancing measures," it adds.
The airline has been offering vouchers and "free moves" (i.e. the option to change flights without a fee), "as these are automated and would give customers an alternative," it says.
"Customers who choose not to accept a free move or voucher will be refunded in due course, once this unprecedented crisis is over."
It apologises for any inconvenience.
Under EU Regulation 261/2014, airlines must offer passengers on cancelled flights the choice of a refund within seven days, or a re-routing.
However, airlines have been left reeling by the coronavirus crisis, and many have been accused by both passengers and travel agents of withholding refunds and offering vouchers for future travel instead.
Ryanair customers vented on social media this week, and The Irish Independent has reviewed several emails inviting passengers to accept vouchers.
"If you do not wish to accept this voucher option and wish to move your flight or request a refund, please click here to contact us," the emails say.
The link leads to a web page (pictured) titled 'Everything you need to know about using your voucher', where a short note on refund information sits towards the end of the page.
"You can request a cash refund, however bear in mind we will place your request in the cash refund queue until the COVID-19 emergency has passed," it states.
"We highly recommend using the refund voucher," the airline reiterates.
A chatbot option is then given, but no customer service number (which is 0330 1007 838, charged at local rates) and no link to Ryanair's flight cancellations page.
Customers have also complained about long wait times with chatbots and call centres, and the fact that vouchers must be used within 12 months.
Ryanair has substantial cash reserves, is in a strong position to ride out the Covid-19 crisis and had drawn praise for its swift refunds and decisive action in the early stages of the pandemic.
"I do have sympathy for them and realise paying out a huge amount of money is very difficult to do," one customer told The Irish Independent. "I don’t like being pushed into [a voucher] though."
"They are kicking to touch by offering a voucher instead, and making it almost impossible for customers to get a refund," another customer said.
This week, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) also revealed that it has replied to over 8,000 customers since February 1.
The most common complaints have concerned package holidays, cancelled flights and accommodation cancellations, it said.
NB: This story has been updated to include a revised figure offered by Ryanair. The airline originally said it was having to process 10 times the usual volume of refund requests. It has now revised that figure to 10,000.
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