Almost half of airline customers are still waiting to be refunded for flights cancelled since the middle of March, according to a survey.
Which? asked nearly 2,800 passengers who had their flights cancelled in the past two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Of the 1,182 people who were eligible for a refund and had requested one, some 48% of them had not received it.
Those surveyed covered booking with 25 airlines and 84% of Ryanair customers said they were still waiting for refunds.
Just 5% of the airline’s customers said they had received their money back within seven days, the legal time frame for EU carriers to process refunds.
Only one in six said they had received a refund at all.
A spokesperson for Ryanair told Sky News that the airline was offering customers all options they were legally entitled to, including refunds.
They added: “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.”
EasyJet customers also reported difficulty in getting their fares refunded – just 14% who requested one received it within seven days and 63% are still waiting.
A spokesperson for EasyJet said: “Customers on cancelled flights can transfer to an alternative flight free of charge or receive a voucher for the value of their booking online.
“Customers may also request a refund by submitting a claim in writing via a dedicated refund webform online. We are processing refunds for customers and aim to do so in less than 28 days.”
British Airways and Jet2 fared better, with 39% of British Airways customers getting their money back within seven days and 29% of Jet2 customers.
Almost a quarter of British Airways customers are still waiting, alongside 19% of Jet2 customers.
A British Airways spokesperson said any passenger affected by cancellations should call to discuss their options, while Jet2 said it was working “tirelessly and proactively” to contact customers in departure order to discuss their options.
Airlines worldwide have struggled since the coronavirus became a pandemic.
Travel restrictions, closed borders and quarantine requirements brought in to limit the spread of the virus, have seen flights grounded.
Airlines, along with other leisure-type businesses such as hotels, have been faced with having to process refund, re-booking and voucher requests for a huge number of passengers. All at a time when many are having to lay-off workers and plead for government bailouts to survive.
Which? said it had called on the government to give the industry urgent support to allow it the financial means to refund customers without fear of going bust.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: “Some airlines are doing much better than others at refunding their customers, proving that while these are indeed difficult times for the industry, withholding customers’ money from them is simply inexcusable.
“The regulator and government cannot sit on their hands any longer. The Civil Aviation Authority must urgently hold airlines that are brazenly breaking the law to account, and the government must set out how it will support the industry where necessary if airlines are unable to refund their customers without fear of going under.”
Next week from Monday to Thursday, Dermot Murnaghan will be hosting After the Pandemic: Our New World – a series of special live programmes about what our world will be like once the pandemic is over.
We’ll be joined by some of the biggest names from the worlds of culture, politics, economics, science and technology. And you can take part too. If you’d like to be in our virtual audience – from your own home – and put questions to the experts, email firstname.lastname@example.org