The UK Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has today (9 June) confirmed that it is investigating whether Ryanair and British Airways have broken consumer law by failing to offer refunds for flights customers could not legally take due to lockdown laws in the UK.
The CMA has opened enforcement cases into both airlines and written to them detailing its concerns.
The move is part of a wider investigation into the issues of refunds that was opened in December 2020.
During periods of lockdown across the UK, British Airways and Ryanair refused to give refunds to people that were lawfully unable to fly, with British Airways offering vouchers or rebooking and Ryanair providing the option to rebook.
The CMA is concerned that, by failing to offer people their money back, both firms may have breached consumer law and left people unfairly out of pocket. It is now seeking to resolve these concerns with the companies, which may include seeking refunds, or other redress, for affected customers.
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.
Airlines’ Contrasting Responses
The two airlines have responded to the news with somewhat different tones.
Ryanair’s spokesperson said: “Ryanair today (9 June) welcomed the UK CMA’s update on its review of airline policies on refund requests made by UK consumers whose flights operated during periods of lockdown.
“Ryanair has approached such refund requests on a case by case basis and has paid refunds in justified cases. 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.”
However, British Airways’ response was somewhat more combative. In a statement it 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.”
For all flights that either begin or end in an EU country including Ireland, airlines are bound by EU Regulation 261/2014, which states that airlines must offer passengers on cancelled flights the choice of a refund within seven days, or a re-routing.