Ryanair Refused Pandemic Refunds, Extorts Passengers Who Get Help From Credit Card Companies

When airlines cancelled flights at the start of the pandemic, many of them kept customer money. Generally American Airlines and Delta provided refunds, while United did not. United knew they were acting illegally but was more concerned with conserving cash and staying out of bankruptcy, willing to risk Department of Transportation fines. Eventually even they – and other U.S. airlines like JetBlue – relented under government pressure.

The European Union was similarly clear that when an airline cancels a flight, they cannot keep the money for that flight. Nonetheless, EU regulators did nothing about it. Although 18 months later European airlines have agreed to refund customers. Ryanair is one of these airlines.

Many customers took it upon themselves to seek help when airlines refused refunds. Some credit card companies were more helpful than others. American Express, apparently, was most likely to process chargebacks against Ryanair. After all, you cannot keep money for services that haven’t been delivered.

It appears though that Ryanair banned passengers who got their refunds via credit card chargeback.

  • They didn’t tell the customers about the ban
  • Many customers bought new tickets now that they’re flying again
  • And the airline is insisting they pay back the refunds before being allowed to fly

Ryanair agrees, via EU settlement, that customers whose money they held for a year and a half for cancelled flights are due their refunds. However, it seems, some chargebacks were for refunds when the flight actually took off. And Ryanair defends itself saying they’re a no-refunds airline period.

The airline refused to refund affected passengers unable to travel, leading many to successfully seek chargebacks from their credit card company, in particular American Express.

Three of those passengers, who went on to make new bookings with Ryanair to travel this year, have been told they can only fly Ryanair again if they return the sum reclaimed. One passenger was given this ultimatum just hours before they were due to fly.

When air berlin went bankrupt, the bankruptcy trustee actually took customers who had succeeded with chargebacks to collections arguing that under German law passengers with unused tickets are really unsecured creditors. They were not really in a position to collect.

Here Ryanair is waiting until passengers are about to travel, and other non-refundable payments for accommodations, to pressure them to pay back refunds received via chargeback.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Ryanair’s new work around is to allow you credit but against another booking made and traveled before year end with a 50-60 Euro booking charge which makes the new airfare higher than buying a ticket on a real carrier which is what we did. For us no more Irish hospitality as we’ll never fly them or visit Ireland again. The Guinness in the UK is just as tasty.I can hold out a lot longer than Ryanair-total crooks.

  2. Yawn. These are ‘you chose not to fly’ not ‘the flight didn’t operate’ refunds.

    Ryanair has always been a cheap POS and I don’t fly it, but if you book on them then this is par for the course and your own fault.

  3. This is wrong. This is not about cancelled flights. It’s about flights that happened but the passengers decided not to fly and then asked for a refund.

  4. If I understand it these were non-refundable tickets on flights that did actually fly, but the people chose not to go. Then they disputed the charge. So when is a non-refundable ticket actually not refundable? Just because you don’t want to fly with COVID, or are are reasons satisfactory? Why wouldn’t any actual illness be just as good of a reason to expect refund, or even better?

  5. Ryanair was insisting you fly into red zones in Europe that required a 7-10 day quarantine. Their airplanes should have been confiscated and their pilots arrested for doing so. All because they are greedy.

  6. @paul, lot’s of people had a need to fly nonetheless and were very glad that Ryanair was still flying. If people wanted a refundable ticket they could have bought one or get travel insurance.

  7. Rui, travel insurance has not covered covid for over a year and now only up to 75% at at higher premium. Ryanair also did not refund unused baggage fees, seat assignments and I doubt they turned over the ticket tax revenue that they collected to the Irish Government.

  8. @paul – “their pilots arrested”

    Arrest the pilots? For what? Operating a scheduled flight (ie, THEIR JOB)? Are you delusional?
    The wrongdoers are the airline brass, not the pilots.

  9. @Paul is wrong about arresting the pilots, but quite correct in pointing out the injustice of losing the ticket for not flying into a red zone with a subsequent quarantine. Probably EU regulators need to develop defined quarantine exceptions to nonrefundable fares. This isn’t just deciding not to go because you don’t feel like it.

  10. I do believe this is a bit more nuanced than the post suggests. These are not flights that were cancelled; as others have commented, these were flights that were NOT cancelled. However, the passengers decided that travel was undesirable or impractical due to the imposition of quarantines or other procedures in the destination. So let’s be clear: this is NOT a situation where the airline failed to provide the purchased service, but rather a situation where the customer no-showed.

    Should governments have required refunds in these situations when doling out welfare to airlines: YES!!! Did they? NO!!! Certainly, Ryanair will be alienating many customers with this policy, but they have concluded that it is a preferable business decision to do so. EU regulations require refunds within 7 days of a flight’s cancellation. I have absolutely used charge-backs when this hasn’t happened (actually, if anyone has gotten a prompt refund, leave a comment below), and have subsequently travelled with no difficulty, so clearly the airline understands the laws in question.

  11. I have no clue how the heck in airline allegedly extorts customers who get help from their credit card companies in terms of getting pandemic refunds. If this is true, this goes to show many companies are willing to resort to dirty tactics in order to hold on to monies they know they owe customeers. it wasn’t until the Covid 19 pandemic hit that really showed a lot of reputable companies allegedly ended up being fees, by allegedly charging people secret fees and suspected Lee raising prices without notice.

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