Ryanair has promised to start refunding customers for cancelled flights within five working days, after criticism of its reimbursements policy during the pandemic.
The Dublin-based carrier, which has previously described itself as a “no-refunds airline”, has also announced significant improvements to the way it treats customers whose flights are delayed or cancelled.
At the start of the pandemic, when tourist travel was more or less banned, Ryanair, along with a number of other airlines, refused to refund customers who were unable to travel, if the flight went ahead.
It prompted a wave of criticism and led to an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority into whether consumers had been treated fairly. The CMA later dropped the action, but a few days later it emerged that the airline was barring passengers who had pursued chargeback refunds for the flights via their credit card company, unless they returned the money.
Separately, customers who were promised refunds for cancelled flights later found they had instead been given vouchers instead, often with expiry dates too early for them to use.
Ryanair said on Thursday that it had introduced the new commitment to refund passengers within five working days. The EU rules require passengers on flights cancelled by the airline to be reimbursed within seven days, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
The airline is also to start streaming live videos and webcasts from its operations centre during major disruptions through its new “day of travel” app, along with a number of other customer service improvements.
Ryanair’s director of marketing, Dara Brady, said: “In the small number of cases where we suffer disruption, customers will receive regular updates including live video and webcasts from our ops centre, ensuring they are kept as up to date as possible with what’s happening and how their disruption will be resolved. In rare cases of cancellations, customers who request a refund will now get confirmation and access to it within 24hrs in MyRyanir and will be refunded to the original form of payment within five working days.”
He said the changes had been introduced after the first meeting of the company’s new customer advisory panel, which is scheduled to meet twice a year. Ryanair said it wanted the panel to help it improve its customers’ experience post-pandemic, with the aim of expanding to carrying 225 million passengers a year.
This is not the first time the airline has attempted to improve its image. In 2013 Ryanair’s boss, Michael O’Leary, famously said it was time the airline stopped “unnecessarily pissing people off”.