Claire MacDonald was trying ahead to a visit to Portugal along with her household when the primary lockdown was imposed in March 2020.
She and her husband booked the Ryanair tickets initially of the 12 months, however discovered themselves in a scenario the place legally they could not fly.
However, Ryanair declined to present them a refund, and as a substitute they needed to rebook, incurring additional prices.
Claire mentioned the scenario was “incredibly frustrating”.
The MacDonalds had paid £1,000 for the flights for themselves and their two youngsters, however had been refused a refund, and had been informed they might lose their cash unless they paid an additional £300 to rebook.
“This is an utter disgrace that Ryanair charged us for this,” Claire informed the BBC.
“They [Ryanair] can say: ‘The flight took off and you weren’t on it. It’s your problem.'”
‘Despondent and indignant’
To make issues worse, the household are actually because of fly out to Portugal in two weeks time – however given the federal government remains to be advising to not journey to amber locations for leisure, they don’t need to go.
“Ryanair still will not issue a refund,” mentioned Claire who lives in Edinburgh.
“So we are due to lose £1,300 now and I am currently furloughed. Where is the justice here? I feel pretty despondent and angry to say the least.”
Customers spoke out after a watchdog began an investigation into whether or not Ryanair and British Airways had damaged the regulation in not providing refunds to clients who could not legally take flights because of Covid lockdowns.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) mentioned the airways’ stance might have left clients out of pocket.
The airways provided different choices, however each refused refunds, it mentioned.
However, BA mentioned it had acted lawfully and Ryanair mentioned it had refunded clients in justified instances.
‘It’s morally flawed’
Andy Watts, a sheet-metal employee from Nottingham, booked a vacation for his household of 4 to journey to Alicante for August 2020 with flights costing £1,200.
However, they then obtained a letter from their GP saying his eldest daughter, then 12, ought to protect for medical causes.
“This cut no ice with Ryanair,” he mentioned. The household was “forced” to switch the flights to August this 12 months at a value of £860.
“I now believe those flights for us are very unlikely to happen as Spain will remain an amber country,” he mentioned.
“We looked at transferring again, due to the uncertainty, to next year 2022 but can only transfer up until Christmas 2021 at an additional cost of £300.”
Andy now stands to be greater than £2,000 out of pocket and has the selection to both stroll away from the journey or guide extra flights not realizing if he’ll have the ability to use them.
“It’s pretty disgusting,” Andy mentioned. “The government advice is that you shouldn’t travel. It’s poor customer service, and it’s morally wrong.”
During the three UK lockdowns folks had been informed to keep away from all non-essential journey.
The CMA’s investigation is taking a look at flights that weren’t cancelled, however that folks legally couldn’t go on because of lockdown restrictions.
The watchdog mentioned that whereas BA had provided vouchers and rebooking for flights that weren’t cancelled, and Ryanair had provided rebooking, each had declined refunds.
‘Booked in good religion’
Andrea Coscelli, chief govt of the CMA, mentioned: “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 religion and had been legally unable to take them because of circumstances completely outdoors of their management. We imagine these folks ought to have been provided their a reimbursement.”
The watchdog is concerned that during lockdowns in the UK, when most people were legally unable to fly, the airlines failed to offer refunds.
It said it wanted to resolve those concerns, which might include the airlines offering affected customers refunds “or different redress”.
The CMA has sent a letter to the companies outlining its concerns.
Usually the watchdog tries to work with firms to address any issues. However, if the firms push back, it can seek a court order to compel them to refund customers and make changes to their practices.
The CMA cannot fine the firms if it is found they breached consumer law – which is different to its powers in competition cases, where it can levy fines.
But BA said it offered “extremely versatile reserving insurance policies similtaneously working a vastly decreased schedule because of government-imposed journey restrictions, and we have acted lawfully always”.
A spokesperson said: “During this unprecedented disaster we have issued nicely over three million refunds and helped thousands and thousands of our clients change their journey dates or locations and we’re grateful to them for his or her ongoing help.
“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.”
Ryanair mentioned it had checked out refunds on a case-by-case foundation and had paid a reimbursement “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,” it mentioned.
The CMA has been investigating numerous elements of the journey business, following complaints about refunds, cancellations and value rises throughout the pandemic.
It has obtained 148,000 complaints thus far, with many 1000’s of these being about vacation refunds.
In April it threatened legal action in opposition to companies providing vouchers as a substitute of refunds for lodging.
Then in May it warned travel companies that they wanted to be able to refund clients, and mentioned that 5 huge bundle vacation companies together with Tui, Lastminute.com and Virgin Holidays had refunded a complete of £200m.