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How to try to beat the Ryanair refund trap – with passengers STILL fighting to get cash back for cancelled flights

How to try to beat the Ryanair refund trap – with passengers STILL fighting to get cash back for cancelled flights

Angry Ryanair passengers have complained they're going "round in circles" trying to claim cash back from the budget airline for cancelled flights – having already requested refunds and been sent vouchers instead. But some have had success by claiming from their card provider, while others have found live chat the most effective way to get a response from Ryanair. If you're stuck, here's what to try...

Last Tuesday we reported that many Ryanair passengers – likely thousands in total – had jumped through hoops to request cash refunds after their flights were cancelled due to coronavirus, only to be sent vouchers instead. As a result, we made a formal complaint to Trading Standards and the aviation regulator.

Frustratingly, when Ryanair emailed passengers with a voucher, it included details of how to request a cash refund instead. Now those same customers say that requesting a cash refund is proving even more onerous the second time round, with some saying they've been left "in limbo" by the company's online chat bot or waiting on the phone for hours. So here we've some tricks you can use to try to get your cash back.

Update 9.30pm Tue 28 Apr: Some Ryanair customers who recently received a voucher have just told us they've had a new email from the airline saying that if they don't use their voucher before the expiry date in 12 months' time, they will receive a full cash refund.

The email also includes a link to "accept the voucher". Be wary of doing this if you're set on getting cash back, as if you do, it may make it harder to insist on a refund by another route. We've contacted Ryanair for full details of its amended refund policy and will update this story when we know more – see what it's told us so far below.

For full help on holiday refunds, travel insurance and more, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

Step 1: Try to contact Ryanair – live chat may be best

When passengers who had specifically asked for refunds from Ryanair were sent vouchers instead last week, they were told to contact Ryanair if they would like a refund instead – which may have been a deja vu moment for many.

The link Ryanair provided customers with to ask for a refund sends them to a page that is almost completely about how to use vouchers, but it does contain a link to its chat bot service at the bottom. Yet many passengers have told us they've had real difficulty using the bot:

Instead, your best bet may be to use Ryanair's live chat service, where you'll actually get to speak to a customer service agent. We've heard of people having more success using this than the chat bot. For example, MSE Sarah eventually got through to someone on live chat and was told she would get a refund – though she's still waiting for it.

Many are saying they've had to wait for hours in the live chat queue, though at least queuing via live chat means you can do something else in the meantime:

Note as well, that even if you do get through to Ryanair and it tells you that you'll get a refund, it's unlikely to be instant. Some users have reportedly been told they'll get a refund after the coronavirus crisis is over, which could be months away. If you're not prepared to wait, move on to step two...

Step 2: Try claiming via your card firm under chargeback 

If you're struggling to get a refund from Ryanair, one option is to ask your card firm to get you your money back instead, under the chargeback scheme. This isn't a legal requirement, just a customer service promise, but it means your bank will try to get money back from the bank of the firm you bought from – in this case Ryanair – and you can try it on debit and credit card purchases. See our Chargeback guide for full info.

There is another card scheme you can try too, called Section 75, but we suggest trying chargeback first, and here's why:

Martin: 'Try chargeback first'

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "Chargeback applies on all debit and credit cards.

"With Section 75 you get the stronger legal protection that the card company is jointly liable – though Section 75 is only for credit card payments over £100.

"Even if you actually have a credit card and qualify for Section 75, I wouldn't ask for that at this stage. I would ask for a chargeback. That's because under the chargeback process, which is part of the Visa, Mastercard or Amex rules, your bank is asking for money back from Ryanair's bank, which your bank is unlikely to have an issue doing.

"If you claim under Section 75 though, you are asking the credit card company itself to cover you, and while they may be legally obliged to do this, they are likely to be much more reticent to. So it's worth trying Section 75 only if chargeback fails. And with both, if you are rejected you have the right to go on to the free Financial Ombudsman who can adjudicate."

To make a claim, you'll need to contact your bank and explain the situation. What happens next will vary from bank to bank – it may provide you with a form to fill in or ask for evidence of your purchase.

There's no guarantee of success doing this – in fact, a number of Ryanair customers who have approached their bank say their chargeback request was turned down because Ryanair has already provided a voucher. (In that case, you can raise a complaint with the card firm and escalate to the Financial Ombudsman if necessary.)

But we are hearing success stories from those who have tried this. For example, MoneySaver Kim told us she was able to get £896 back from Barclays for several Ryanair tickets she had booked between Manchester and Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands. She said: "The adviser asked a couple of questions and checked with supervisors. She said the money would be in the account within 24 to 48 hours. In fact it was refunded within the hour."

And Alan said on Facebook: "Prompted by MSE raising this a few days ago, I went online to my credit card Amex, and raised a claim against the charge for services not provided. Three days later Amex wrote to me to say my account had been credited with the flight amount."

It's worth being aware that even after you've got money back via chargeback, the cash can still technically be clawed back if the firm you bought from successfully disputes your claim within a limited period (usually within 45 days of your bank approaching the firm). See our Chargeback guide for more info. 

Step 3: No success with chargeback? Try Section 75

If you've had no success with chargeback, you may be able to try making a claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act instead. That's a legal right, rather than a customer service promise like chargeback, and means if you pay for something costing between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, the card firm's equally liable if something goes wrong, so you may be able to claim your money back from it. 

This will only be an option if your individual flights were over £100 each though, and you bought them on credit card.

As Martin says above, because with Section 75 you're asking the credit card company itself to cover you, it may be more difficult. But if chargeback hasn't worked it's definitely worth a go.

The way you raise a Section 75 claim is very similar to the chargeback process – start by contacting your bank and asking what it needs you to do. For full help see our Section 75 guide. 

Step 4: As a last resort, you could try reporting Ryanair to the regulator (or consider the legal route)

As a final step, you could also try reporting Ryanair to regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as we already have – while it may not immediately get you a refund, it could help pile the pressure on. You can do this using a form on the CAA's website.

Ryanair used to be part of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme, but unfortunately Aviation ADR says it stopped accepting new Ryanair complaints in late 2018, so this isn't an avenue you'll be able to take.

If all else fails, the CAA says disputes with airlines can be escalated in small claims court – so you could consider challenging Ryanair legally, though you'll need to weigh up whether it's worth doing this. If you're considering this it may be worth first contacting the CAA's advice and complaints team on 0330 022 1916 to discuss the situation and whether there might be another way to resolve it.

Finally, if you must call, use the local rate number

We don't suggest calling Ryanair if you can possibly avoid it, because some passengers report long queues, and you may have difficulty getting through. 

But if you do need to call to chase a refund, avoid using Ryanair's general enquiries number (0871 246 0000) as Ryanair says that'll be charged at a rate of 13p a minute. Instead, try using Ryanair's post-booking helpline, 0330 1007 838, which is a local-rate number.

If you've more tips and tricks for successfully getting a Ryanair refund, let us know at news@moneysavingexpert.com or in the comments below.

What does Ryanair say?

A Ryanair spokesperson said: "For any cancelled flight, Ryanair is giving customers all of the options set out under EU regulations, including free moves and refunds in the form of cash or vouchers. The process time for cash refunds is taking longer due to the fact we are having to process 10,000 times the usual volume of cancellations and have fewer staff available due to social-distancing measures.

"Ryanair is offering vouchers and free moves as these are automated and would give customers an alternative. Customers who choose a voucher but don't redeem it within 12 months may still apply for and obtain a refund after this 12-month period. This also includes partial redemption, as the portion of the unused voucher will be refunded.

"Customers who choose not to accept a free move or voucher will be refunded in due course, once this unprecedented crisis is over. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and we thank our customers for bearing with us."