British Airways and Ryanair are being investigated over their refusal to refund passengers who couldn’t fly during local and national lockdowns.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says it’s possible the airlines broke consumer law by failing to offer refunds to passengers who weren’t legally allowed to travel.
It has opened enforcement cases into both airlines and written to them detailing its concerns with the hope of resolving these concerns with the companies before taking any further action.
The CMA stressed that it shouldn’t be assumed at this time that either airline has broken the law, adding: “Ultimately, only a court can decide whether a breach has occurred.”
But BA says it is ‘incredible’ that the Government is ‘seeking to punish further an industry that is on its knees’.
An airline spokesperson said: “During this unprecedented crisis we have issued well over three million refunds and helped millions of our customers change their travel dates or destinations and we’re grateful to them for their ongoing support.
“We continue to offer highly flexible booking policies at the same time as operating a vastly reduced schedule due to Government-imposed travel restrictions, and we have acted lawfully at all times.
“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.”
Ryanair, on the other hand, said it ‘welcomed the CMA’s update on its review on refund requests’.
A spokesperson said: “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.”
The CMA began investigating airlines last December following reports that passengers were being denied refunds for flights they couldn’t legally take.
During periods of lockdown across the UK, BA and Ryanair continued to offer some flights and wouldn’t refund those passengers who were booked but couldn’t travel. Instead, BA offered them vouchers or the option to rebook, while Ryanair only gave a rebooking option, according to the CMA.
In a statement issued this morning, it said: “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.”
Ryanair told the CMA it has since refunded ‘a small number of people’ having reviewed the specifics of their cases.
CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli 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,”
BA and Ryanair have the opportunity to respond to the CMA’s detailed concerns.