When the no-fly Covid restrictions were imposed, many were unable to catch their flight. The rules are that if a flight goes ahead anyway, the airline is not obligated to refund the fare.
People should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law.
Passengers were left with three possible choices: lose the money or if the airline agreed, change the flight date for free or receive vouchers. For many none of these options were palatable.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a probe that stretches the duration of lockdown when all but essential travel has been banned. This includes the 19-weeks when travel was banned up to 17 May 2021. The CMA asserts that the contract should be regarded as “frustrated” – with a refund due
The result may force British Airways and Ryanair to repay fares to those who could not fly due to lockdown rules.
The CMA said:
“During periods of lockdown across the UK, British Airways and Ryanair refused to give refunds to people that were lawfully unable to fly, with British Airways offering vouchers or rebooking and Ryanair providing the option to rebook.”
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA was clear:
“While we understand that airlines have had a tough time during the pandemic, people should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law.
“Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances entirely outside of their control. We believe these people should have been offered their money back.”
British Airway was quick to respond:
“It’s incredible that the government is seeking to punish further an industry that is on its knees.
“Any action taken against our industry will only service to destabilise it, with potential consequences for jobs, business, connectivity and the UK economy.”
British Airways has offered £3 million in refunds for cancelled flights and insists it has acted lawfully.
Ryanair who has refunded customers whose flights operated during the lockdown “in justified cases” was more upbeat and is welcoming the review.