Stormy skies: a Ryanair Boeing 737 taking off from Gatwick, destination Dublin: Simon Calder
Stormy skies: a Ryanair Boeing 737 taking off from Gatwick, destination Dublin: Simon Calder

Europe’s biggest budget airline says it is “a beacon” for the aviation industry in the way it is handling passenger refunds.

Ryanair has been the subject of widespread criticism for delays in returning money for flights cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Eddie Wilson, chief executive of the airline’s main brand Ryanair DAC, has told The Independent: “We have given out close to €750m in vouchers and in cash refunds.

“I would say actually we’re a beacon, we’re doing it right. We are making our way through this, we are giving regular updates.

“There’s up to 30 million journeys that were cancelled. It is truly extraordinary.”

Under European air passengers’ rights rules, airlines that cancel flights are supposed to refund the fare within a week. But Mr Wilson said that deadline is unachievable.

“Nobody can do this within seven days. It just can’t be done. We are really, really doing our best.

“We’re only back to full-time resourcing and customer services from 1 June. It’s hard to imagine the volume of this, and what people are actually working on here to get it through.

“Of course the people who aren’t shouting about it any more are the people that have got their money or changed their vouchers or changed their flight and have got on with it.”

Mr Wilson said that many of the continuing problems were related to bookings made through online travel agents (OTAs), with Ryanair unable to contact the customer direct.

Lesley Stockman was due to fly to Krakow in March, on an itinerary booked outbound with Ryanair and inbound with easyJet through an OTA.

She said: “We have had no correspondence from them about a refund. I have emailed, Twitter messaged and tried phoning but the number has been disconnected.”

Ryanair says some OTAs are passing incorrect passenger contact details to the airline, and also using “virtual” credit cards for payment – to which refunds cannot be made.

Mr Wilson said: “The customer’s caught in the middle here. We can’t make contact with them.”

The airline has introduced a “customer verification” option that it says will enable such passengers to obtain a refund.

The Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement: “Only a minority group of airlines have been consistently providing consumers with refunds in an acceptable timeframe, however we have noted a marked improvement across most airlines since our review commenced.

“We expect this direction of travel to be maintained.”

Eddie Wilson took over as chief executive of Ryanair DAC in August 2019, but Michael O’Leary remains CEO of the Ryanair group.

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