Ryanair and BA under investigation for refusing lockdown refunds

Ryanair and British Airways are under investigation for refusing refunds to customers who couldn’t legally fly during lockdown restrictions. 

ryanair plane

The Competition and Markets Authority announced today that it had written to the two firms expressing concern that they may have broken consumer law.

The watchdog said the airlines could have left customers ‘unfairly out of pocket’ for refusing flight refunds at a time when passengers couldn’t legally travel for leisure. The CMA is now seeking to resolve concerns.

An investigation into the airline sector was opened by the CMA in 2020 after receiving complaints about flight refunds, price rises, and cancellations. Some 148,000 complaints have now been filed.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA said: “While we understand that airlines have had a tough time during the pandemic, people should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law.

“Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances entirely outside of their control. We believe these people should have been offered their money back.”

The CMA reported that although British Airways had offered customers the chance to rebook or take vouchers, and Ryanair had offered rebookings, both airlines had declined refunds.

british airways planes

The watchdog’s announcement prompted a sharp response from BA.

A company spokesperson said: “It is incredible that the government is seeking to punish further an industry that is on its knees, after prohibiting airlines from meaningful flying for well over a year now.

“Any action taken against our industry will only serve to destabilise it, with potential consequences for jobs, business, connectivity and the UK economy.”


BA added that it had issued ‘well over three million refunds’ and helped ‘millions’ to change travel dates and/or destinations.

Ryanair told the CMA it had judged refunds on a case-by-case basis and had issued refunds in ‘justified cases’.

In a statement, the budget airline added: “Since June 2020, all our customers have also had the ability to rebook their flights without paying a change fee and millions of our UK customers have availed of this option.”

Travel Secretary Grant Shapps has defended the CMA’s decision, telling Sky News he’s ‘on the consumer’s side’.

He added: “There’s absolute requirement and duty to make sure that people can either rebook or get their money back – that’s the way to build confidence (in booking flights) in any case.

“I do urge all operators to adhere to that and welcome the Competition and Markets Authority’s work into this because that’s how we’re going to rebuild confidence – people knowing that they can rebook if there’s a problem or change because of coronavirus that people didn’t see coming.”

The resolution?

The CMA is hoping to resolve the issue by ‘seeking refunds, or other redress, for affected companies’.

It’s expected that the watchdog will try to work with both companies to address issues first, but could seek a court order to compel them to refund customers if no resolution is sought.

The airlines cannot be fined by the CMA.

Have you been refused a refund by an airline over the course of the pandemic? Do you think the CMA is correct in its decision? Leave your comments below or email ann@adventurepending.com.

Reading in a hurry?

  • British Airways and Ryanair may have broken consumer law, watchdog says
  • BA accuses CMA of punishing further ‘an industry that is on its knees’
  • CMA and airlines now to work towards a resolution for customers

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