Sadly, you don’t often need to look hard to find salacious airline stories. But sometimes, even with very low bars set for “new lows”, an airline does something which makes your head spin.

This week, Ryanair is taking its turn in the “new low” category, causing chaos for any passengers who ever issued chargebacks against the airline during the height of the pandemic.

Ryanair Chaos for Chargeback Customers

According to reporting from Money Saving Expert (MSE), Ryanair is making life difficult for people who initiated chargebacks against the airline during the pandemic, when they could not travel as planned.

In fact, they’re demanding that impacted passengers pay back any flight refunds they received via their (legal) right to chargeback. If they don’t agree, theyre denying them from boarding.

People made new bookings for future trips, only to be told that unless they paid back any previously refunded chargebacks, they’d be denied their flights. It’s unlikely any refunds would be offered on the new flights, either.

In some instances, it’s reported that Ryanair was contacting people in the days, or even just hours before their new flight was scheduled to depart, demanding they repay the previously refunded amounts, some up to £600 (circa $820).

Where The Problem Started

Ryanair kept flying “ghost” flights during the pandemic, in many cases, specifically to block people from being eligible for refunds. Unlike holiday packages in the EU, flight only bookings aren’t typically eligible for refunds if the flight takes place, even if you personally cannot take it — due to travel restrictions or personal concerns.

Obviously, the pandemic was an extraordinary time, and many people felt slighted by Ryanair for this unfriendly policy, which is said to have prevent 100,000’s of refunds from being eligible for a refund with any clarity under EU law.

That meant passengers who could not travel, either due to legal entry restrictions in place, or legitimate worries during the pandemic were left with no choice but to try to initiate chargebacks via their credit card company.

Debit card customers typically are not able to do this, which is why it’s always best to book flights with a credit card.

Many customers, particularly those who booked with credit card companies which aim for high levels of customer satisfaction, were successful in their chargeback claims.

The credit card companies cited that people purchased a “good or service” which was not provided as purchased, and therefore card chargebacks would be eligible. The card companies therefore took the amount back from Ryanair.

Now Ryanair Is Playing Hardball

Yep, so now, Ryanair is basically telling anyone who they left stranded during a global pandemic with no possibility of refund, who was able to get one anyway, that they’re not welcome to fly on the airline again until they pay money for flights they didn’t take.

That’s a hard sentence to swallow, yet it’s exactly what’s happening. Surely Ryanair would be better off trying to woo customers as we head into the low season of travel?

So far, regulators are staying clear of this specific issue, since so many grey areas exist. On one hand, Ryanair said if the flight goes ahead, there’s no refunds. It was semi clear policy. On the other hand, Ryanair spitefully flew planes, just to hold onto cash.

It will certainly be interesting to see where the UK CAA, CMA and credit card companies end up on the issue. It could end up becoming a landmark case. Typically, any previous dealings which are resolved wouldn’t exclude someone from future dealings, but in the end, Ryanair is free to make policies as it so chooses.

For me, the handling and lack of transparency with customers from Ryanair certainly makes me less likely to ever choose their airline. Just as these actions are their free market choice, this is mine.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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6 Comments

  1. Fair and balanced…
    There’s an equation of price / service / lived experience / loyalty and for me it all depends on the sums involved,which are probably higher than the ad’s which drew them to book but lower than their legacy competition.

    1. £20 bargain bucket fare… Well you can do a lot with that as recent news but Ryanair are not responsible for Covid-19 either.
      £2000 & a customer whose circumstances have changed as a result of Covid? A different matter of the corporate (biggest airline in Europe?) screwing the customer.
      The problem is the damn virus has victims on both sides of the argument. Having said that the corporate shouldn’t win by default.

  2. CMA already ruled that they couldn’t do anything about this but would seek to change the law in future. I believe that Ryanair are willing to refund the flights they are refusing to let you board now if you don’t pay up.

    I’m kind of with Ryanair here, you should have had travel insurance in place for this scenario or take up their offers of flexibility. You know what you are getting into with Ryanair & from a strict interpretation the service was delivered by Ryanair. However they should have defended the charge backs accordingly at the time otherwise I think they should suck it up, this behaviour is pretty unreasonable at this point and in the grand scheme of things they’re unlikely to recover much (and generate a lot of bad press in the meantime )

    1. Mr O’Leary has made it clear that they believe all press is good and that they have always been a no refunds airline. This perhaps covers any costs by reinforcing the message that they’re bargain basement… In all sorts of ways but at least they don’t pretend to be anything else unlike some other big UK carriers.

  3. Exactly the behaviour that puts me outside of Ryanair’s target market. I guess I am happy not to fly with them and they are happy I don’t fly with them.

  4. So let me get this right.
    Well known airline for messing customers around, messes customers around and the customers do a charge back?
    Then the same customers think booking a flight with said we’ll known airline that is known for messing customers around, and expects nothing to happen?
    As much as I dislike Ryanair…..what do yo expect? Red carpet?

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