Thursday, September 23

Lockdown Refunds: Why Are Ryanair and BA Investigated? | Competition and Markets Authority

British Airways and Ryanair are being officially investigated as to whether they treated customers unfairly during the pandemic by not offering them flight refunds.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was looking to see if the two airlines had violated consumer law and indicated it was on the side of consumers on this issue. He has opened enforcement cases in both companies.

So is it about flights canceled due to the pandemic?

No, these are flights that were not canceled. A large number of flights were canceled, particularly in the first months of the coronavirus crisis, and consumer experts have always said that the rules in this area are clear: full refunds are due if an airline cancels a flight, which will be processed. within seven business days. . Although that didn’t stop some airlines from trying to offer coupons to people and the like.

Ryanair passenger planes at Dublin Airport.
Ryanair passenger planes at Dublin Airport. Photograph: Paul Faith / AFP / Getty Images

Where things get more complicated is if a flight runs on schedule, but a passenger cannot legally board it because a local or national blockade meant it was illegal for them to travel for non-essential reasons.

This is what the CMA is looking at. At the height of the closures, several airlines continued to fly into and out of UK airports, meaning these trips were not canceled.

So what is the CMA saying?

It said that during blackout periods in the UK, BA and Ryanair refused to grant refunds to people who were “legally unable to fly”, with BA offering coupons or booking changes, and Ryanair providing the option to switch reservations.

The CMA said it was concerned that by not offering people their money back, both airlines could have “left people out of pocket unfairly.”

Andrea Coscelli, CMA Executive Director, said: “Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances completely beyond their control. We think these people should have been offered their money back. “

What are the rules in this area?

They are not clearly defined, hence the involvement of the CMA. There is an argument that airlines are only obliged to reimburse customers if they cancel a flight.

But in May 2020, Richard Colbey, a lawyer for Lamb Chambers, told The Guardian that the fact that it was illegal to go on vacation abroad meant that the contract between the passenger and the airline can be considered “thwarted.” That means that neither party is bound by it and any payments made must be refunded.

It seems that the CMA can share this opinion.

What happens now?

The regulator said it was seeking to resolve these concerns with companies, “which may include seeking refunds or other compensation for affected customers.”

The CMA does not have the power to impose fines on companies, but it can take them to court.

Ryanair said it had addressed reimbursement requests “on a case-by-case basis” and had paid reimbursements in “justified cases”. BA said it had issued more than 3 million refunds during the pandemic and criticized government policies and travel regulations.

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