Three airlines named and humiliated for failing to reimburse passengers within agreed timeframe

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Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic and Tui are failing to reimburse passengers on time, violating recent commitments to the industry regulator to speed up their reimbursement process.Consumer champion Which one? saw evidence that airlines are reneging on promises they made to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on how they would improve their reimbursement processes.

This includes some passengers who have been left out since March.

The findings come after the CAA examined the behavior of airlines and identified several carriers that were not paying refunds “fast enough”, but chose not to take enforcement action after receiving commitments from airlines to improve their performance. performance.

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Ryanair plane at Stansted airport

However, which one? found that Ryanair, Tui and Virgin – all identified by the CAA as not processing refunds fast enough – are failing to deliver on the promises they made, raising concerns that the regulator’s enforcement powers may not be adequate to its goal.

The CAA told Ryanair it was not convinced that refunds were taking 10 weeks or more to process and that airlines offering vouchers should also offer passengers the choice of a cash refund.

Following the regulator’s review, Ryanair posted a pledge on its website that all refund requests through the end of May would be cleared by July 31.

But some Ryanair passengers are still waiting for refunds from March, with some – including hospice nurse Jeanette Howard – still trying to get cash refunds after initially receiving vouchers despite a request for a cash refund.



Tailfins of Virgin Atlantic passenger planes parked at Heathrow Airport

Ms Howard has called the airline “daily” since the end of April to ask to exchange the voucher for cash, but she is still waiting for her money.

Virgin Atlantic, meanwhile, told CAA its maximum wait time for refunds was 120 days, but some passengers have been trying to get refunds from the airline for more than four months.

Jeff Palmer and his wife were scheduled to fly the airline to Vegas on April 9, but requested a refund on March 31 after the flights were canceled.

He said he tried “every method under the sun” to contact them, after receiving emails telling him it would be 90 days, then 50, then 14 more, before receiving a refund for his flight but not that of his. female – although it is part of the same reservation.

Tui was reprimanded by the CAA for issuing vouchers and forcing customers to wait an additional 28 days before they could claim their refund.

Tui told CAA that “on average, cash refunds will be processed within 14 days.”



Aircraft operated by TUI at Manchester Airport in Manchester

However, although he told the regulator that he will no longer automatically issue vouchers, Tui still says on his website that customers must wait for a voucher before they can claim a cash refund.

Kath Lowe’s Tui flight from Manchester to Tenerife was canceled on April 29, but she did not receive a voucher – or any other communication – from Tui and until she did, she cannot claim reimbursement.

She says she tried to call Tui on several occasions, but was never able to get to her call center.

Following its review, the CAA said a number of airlines have committed to speeding up the time needed to process refunds without requiring enforcement action, and that they will continue to monitor these airlines and continue to push for further improvements.

He said he would look into whether coercive measures were appropriate if the airlines did not live up to their commitments.

However, he also pointed out that his enforcement powers are not well suited for swift action and that it can take a long time before a case is brought to court.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “Passengers must be able to rely on a regulatory body with effective powers to protect their rights, especially at a time of unprecedented turmoil. The government must step up its efforts and ensure that the CAA has the tools it needs to compel airlines to or risk that consumer confidence in the travel industry is irreparably damaged. ”

A spokesperson for Tui said, “Customers with canceled flight bookings only and scheduled to depart before July 11 received refund vouchers and could then request a cash refund through our online form. These refunds were processed within 28 days.

“Customers who booked a canceled flight only and were scheduled to depart on July 11 will automatically receive cash refunds. These refunds will be processed within 14 days.

“We are very sorry to any customers who may have experienced delays in receiving their refund. ”

Tui also confirmed that a voucher was sent to Ms Lowe in May, but said it may have been lost in the spam email. They have now requested that this be canceled and that a refund be issued.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “The sheer volume of reimbursement requests we received, combined with the strain on our teams and systems during the pandemic, meant that reimbursements took longer than expected. habit to deal with, and we sincerely apologize for it.

“Since April, we have been trying to make improvements where possible. We have increased the size of the team dedicated to processing refunds fivefold, with more than 200 people directly involved.

“This has increased our ability to process more refunds, faster, and we continue to minimize the wait time for existing refund requests.

“As a result of our progress, we are consistently reducing the maximum processing time for each new Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays cash refund. For customers requesting a refund in August, we anticipate that the maximum processing time will be 80 days, from the date of the refund. For those requesting a refund in September, we anticipate it will take a maximum of 60 days, then reduce it to 30 days for refunds requested in October, before returning to normal levels.

“Until recently, we have been committed to processing existing refunds within a maximum of 120 days from the date the refund is requested, and we notify every customer when this is done via email. The period starts from the date the refund is requested and acknowledged by a customer agent, not the date the flight is canceled.

“We are aware that there is a portion of Virgin Atlantic bookings with pending refund requests that were entered incorrectly and unfortunately now exceed 120 days to process. This was an administration error and as soon as this was identified we investigated urgently. We are in the process of resolving this issue. as a priority and any customer concerned will have their refund processed as soon as possible. ”

A Ryanair spokesperson said: “Ryanair has issued more than 750 million euros in cash refunds, vouchers and free moves.

“We have cleared over 90% of the cash reimbursement backlog and are making rapid progress in resolving all remaining reimbursement requests.

“We call on the CAA to take urgent action against unauthorized third-party screen scrapers and ensure that they provide us with real information about our customers.

“Thousands of our customers are still unable to receive their refunds due to unauthorized third-party screen scrapers providing Ryanair with fake email addresses or virtual credit card details that do not belong to our customers.

“Any customer who booked with an unauthorized third-party screen scraper should contact Ryanair directly. ”

The CAA said it will review additional evidence provided by Which? in addition to the 12,000 submitted during the review, but he still needs to “see individual examples in order to consider additional actions needed.”

“We will continue to monitor performance and if an airline does not meet its commitments to us, we will take further action if necessary,” they added.

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