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Ryanair passenger wins cash back in court after being denied refund for Covid disruption - how you can try to get your money back too

A MoneySaver has been awarded £429 by the small claims court after successfully arguing he should have been given a refund for a Ryanair flight he didn't take due to Government advice not to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic. This case doesn't set a legal precedent but it could be useful case law for others in their own complaints. Here's how Nick got his money back and how you can try too.

Nick Blades, from Woolaston in Gloucestershire, won his case against Ryanair in Gloucester and Cheltenham County Court after the airline initially refused to grant him a refund for a flight he had booked from Bristol to Malaga. The flight was scheduled to depart on 30 July 2020 - a time when the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice was against non-essential travel. 

Ryanair refused to refund the retired 65-year-old twice; once when he first complained and then again when he escalated his complaint. It argued that Nick shouldn't be refunded as the flight had not been cancelled. So, Nick decided to take his case to the small claims court, skipping any chargeback or other external complaint route, where he was awarded £429, which included the price of his flight and the £90 in court fees.

After he'd filed court proceedings in August 2021, Nick received a letter from Ryanair's solicitors offering him a travel credit voucher worth £339.36 but he wanted a cash refund, so went ahead with his case.

While this decision by the small claims court is not legally binding - so it doesn't set a legal precedent - it could be used as an example of case law when bringing similar complaints to court. Previously we've reported on Ryanair barring some passengers who opted to do a so-called Chargeback claim against the airline and found themselves barred from future flights.

If you're still owed money for a flight you didn't take due to Covid guidance and haven't already got your money back, this could be a route to try. See below, as well as our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide, for how to get a refund now.

Below is a copy of Nick's court judgement issued by Gloucester and Cheltenham County Court, ordering Ryanair to pay Nick £429.36 for the cost of the flight and court fees

Here's how to complain about your airline

If you have a flight delay or cancellation complaint about an airline other than Ryanair, or it's about Ryanair but it's on an issue unrelated to Covid-19, see our Flight delay and cancellation compensation guide for full info on your rights. 

Here's how to complain about Covid-related Ryanair issues

If like Nick you have a gripe with Ryanair about a Covid-related issue, here's what you can try: 

  • First, complain to Ryanair directly. You'll need to log into your online Ryanair account to use its online chat service to start the complaint process as it only reveals its contact details once you do so, or you can call 01279 358 395. As in Nick's case, Ryanair may initially refuse to refund you if the flight went ahead as it states in its T&Cs that if flights still go ahead they are non-refundable so there's no guarantee of getting your money back. 

    You can use free complaints tool Resolver to help you submit an official complaint if you're struggling to reach Ryanair's customer services team immediately. 
  • If Ryanair won't play ball, you can complain to AviationADR. In this scenario you will need to have already complained to Ryanair and given it at least eight weeks to respond. AviationADR is an alternative dispute resolution scheme (ADR) that helps resolve complaints between airlines and passengers. AviationADR couldn't give us a view on how it would adjudicate complaints of this nature though.

    You could also try complaining to regulator the Civil Aviation Authority, but it's unlikely to consider complaints where the airline has an ADR scheme in place. 

  • You could try a Chargeback if you paid on a debit card, or credit card if your flight was less than £100, but you're likely out of time and Ryanair might dispute it and so Section 75 is likely to be your best bet. Chargeback is not a legal right and you only have 120 days from when your flight was due to make a claim. In addition, with Chargeback the card provider claws the money back from the business's bank, and this means the business can dispute it. In the past, Ryanair has allowed Chargeback claims but then barred some customers from boarding new flights unless they returned the money

    So you're likely to have more luck using Section 75, which is a legal right if you paid by credit card and your flight was more than £100. Here, your credit card provider is jointly liable with the retailer if something goes wrong and it's your card provider that pays out any refunds - it doesn't need to request the money from the bank of the firm involved. 
  • As a last resort, you could consider taking Ryanair to MoneyClaims online. You can take your complaint to court if it's within six years of the flight (five years in Scotland). Sometimes letting a firm know you’ll take it to court is enough. In Nick's case, he successfully argued that there would have been a serious risk to both his and his wife's health had they chosen to travel against Government guidance. This does not set a legal precedent for other courts, or indeed the same court to follow, but it can be useful case law to quote in your own complaint. In the first instance doing a claim is just filling out an online form, though you do have to pay a fee of £35 - £455 depending on the size of the claim.

    If you win, you get these fees back. If your case goes through what’s commonly known as the small claims track in civil court, which most low value claims do, you don’t need lawyers, and can do it yourself if you feel confident. If you lose you don’t get your fee back and you may need to pay expenses (not legal costs). However there is a rare chance it may be moved to a more senior court where you would be due legal fees if you lost – you’d know before it happened though and could back out before then. See our Moneyclaims online (small claims court) guide for full info. 

What does Ryanair say?

A spokesperson for Ryanair said: "While we do not comment on individual cases, our general terms & conditions of carriage, which are available at every step of the booking process and which passengers expressly agree to before completing their bookings, provide that we may refuse carriage where a passenger owes money in respect of a previous flight due to payment having been recharged against us."

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