The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has stated that all ITAA member travel agents continue to have problems with accessing flight refunds from Ryanair, and that this issue continues to affect bricks and mortar travel agents and online travel agents alike. The ITAA is asking Ryanair to be honest and truthful with the public with regards to refunds, to ensure that affected customers are reimbursed for disrupted or cancelled flights.
Since the beginning of the pandemic many consumers have postponed or cancelled their holidays in line with restrictions on non-essential travel, however as these ‘ghost flights’ still went ahead with little to no passengers on board, they are not being offered a refund on their booking. Customers are instead being offered the option to reschedule their holiday or receive a voucher from the airline. The ITAA believes that under current Government advice relating to non-essential travel, these flights should be cancelled and the consumer should be refunded.
ITAA member travel agents have sent in thousands of claims to Ryanair in order to refund their customers with affected flight bookings, with the airline withholding refunds to travel agents and customers alike. Those affected include a small travel agent in Munster owed €60,000, a travel agent specialising in school tours waiting for refunds of half a million euro, and a prominent travel agency waiting on refunds for 1,400 customers. Overall, ITAA member travel agents are currently owed roughly €20m in refund payments from Ryanair.
The ITAA has been in discussion with the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) to try and reach a possible solution, as well as liaising with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and contacting Ryanair directly. The Association has also noted that funds held by licensed travel agents are guaranteed by the state in case of insolvency, offering further protection to customers in the event that a Travel Agent or Tour Operator becomes insolvent and goes out of business.
Pat Dawson, ITAA CEO, stated, “We want to work with Ryanair in getting customers refunded. But we have to go with Ryanair’s mechanisms which are cumbersome. We ask our customers to be patient with us. We are securing refunds but it is taking time. Currently Irish travel agents are doing their best to secure refunds for customers as quickly as possible; consumer protection is our top priority. This issue continues to affect street-front travel agents in addition to online travel companies.”
He continued, “Our member travel agents have been working solidly through the pandemic to assist customers with bookings. These companies could not simply close down, even though they were effectively blocked from trading, and instead have remained open to service customers with cancellations, refunds and rebooking holidays. ITAA member travel agents are not using the current situation as an excuse to avoid refunding customers; we respect and value our customers and we are calling on the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to work with the ITAA to secure refunds for hard pressed consumers as quickly as possible.”