Ryanair responds to MSE dossier of name-change complaints – and insists 'there is no glitch'
Ryanair has written to MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis insisting there is "no technical problem" which is resulting in passengers' names being automatically changed on bookings, despite us submitting a dossier detailing more than 160 reports of the issue.
Last week, MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis called on the chief executives of Ryanair and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to investigate complaints about incorrect names on bookings which have cost some passengers at least £115 to fix.
Some passengers booking in groups have claimed their travel companions' surnames have been changed to be the same as the lead passenger's or account holder's, despite being entered correctly at the time of booking.
Those who've failed to spot an error within Ryanair's 24-hour grace period for free name changes have been charged £115, or £160 if at the airport.
We first reported the issue in December, and have since received hundreds of complaints from customers who say they've been affected. Our dossier included stories from 162 passengers who've reported a surname on their booking was incorrect, plus 30 more cases involving some kind of other name-change issue.
But in a response to Martin received today, Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said the budget airline had investigated 79 of the passengers' complaints and found that there was no technical issue with its website.
We're now waiting on the CAA's response, and in the meantime continue to receive complaints from Ryanair customers who say a name on their booking was changed and they've been unfairly charged name-change fees.
What does Ryanair say?
Mr Jacobs says in his letter that the airline was able to identify 79 of the cases in our dossier, and has investigated each of these "in detail".
It says these complaints relate to bookings made over a five-month period between September 2018 and January 2019, and that over the same period a total of 54 million bookings were made on the Ryanair website – so the number of complaints, in Ryanair's view, is "tiny and statistically insignificant".
Mr Jacobs writes: "Of the 79 bookings we identified, it is noteworthy that nine of these passengers identified the name error in the booking within 24 hours after [sic] confirmation, and then called our reservation line within 24 hours to change the name of the booking without any charge.
"Another 44 persons have paid the name change fee, which we accept is expensive (but the name change fee is designed to deter screen scrapers and other intermediaries booking up our flights with fictitious names and then reselling these cheap seats to unsuspecting consumers at an inflated price). A further 11 customers booked a new fare, as it was cheaper for them to do so, and 15 passengers have still taken no action yet."
Mr Jacobs goes on to say Ryanair has been unable to replicate the issue reported by passengers, and adds: "Over 2.5m customers each week make a booking on the Ryanair system, and over 30% make bookings with multiple passenger names in the booking without difficulty.
"Our IT team conduct rigorous testing of the Ryanair.com platform, as do over 300,000 passengers on a daily basis. If there was any such "glitch", it would have given rise to many thousands of such erroneous name changes on a daily basis, and any such problem would have identified itself within minutes, if not hours, through our customer care telephone lines, and chat services. No such name change problem arose at any time between Sept 2018 to date in Jan 2019."
What happens next?
We also sent the dossier of complaints to aviation regulator the CAA and asked it to investigate. We're waiting to hear back from it and will cover its response when we do.
In the meantime, we're still receiving reports from Ryanair customers who say they've experienced the same issue. If you've been affected, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For practical help on what to do if you believe you've been unfairly charged a name-change fee, see our Can I fight back? help.