Questions Of Cash: Ryanair customer service fails to take off


Q. We flew to Malta in April last year with Ryanair. Our holiday was extended by five days as a result of the volcanic ash situation. Initially, Ryanair stated that it would not compensate passengers, but on 22 April it conceded that it would abide by EU regulations. We submitted our claim on 30 April for €980 (£880), supported by a letter and receipts. On 5 May we resubmitted the claim, conforming with the statement by Ryanair on its website specifying how claims should be made.

On 2 June we received an email from Ryanair stating that we did not have a valid claim. On 7 June we emailed requesting an explanation. On 15 June Ryanair emailed to say that we had no entitlement as we had "chosen not to wait for a Ryanair flight".

On 17 June we emailed to explain that we had taken the first available Ryanair flight. On 23 June we were emailed by Ryanair advising that we should resubmit our claim (for the third time). There was then a further exchange of emails and faxes. On 26 August we received an email from Ryanair saying that we would receive a cheque within 25 working days. We wrote again on 25 October and 17 November requesting the payment, which had not arrived. On 22 November we received an email promising a reply within eight weeks. On 2 December, Ryanair issued a cheque for £448.71 in "full and final settlement" – this was approximately half our claim.

On 4 December we wrote to Ryanair advising that we would accept the payment as an instalment on our claim and seeking a breakdown as to the basis of its reduction. On 16 December we received a letter from Ryanair advising that our claim was being reassessed with a cheque to follow. We then lodged the cheque, but it was returned by our bank noted "payment stopped". It is now six weeks since we last heard from Ryanair and nine months since we first submitted what we believe to be a bona fide claim. RR, County Tyrone.

Q. I was with a group of six people who paid nearly £600 to Ryanair for flights. We arrived at the airport and were due to board the flight, when it was announced as cancelled because of a strike by Spanish air traffic controllers. We left as instructed, as did many other passengers for the flight. We found out later that the flight did in fact take off, though several hours late. We have spent five months trying to obtain refunds for these flights and the return journeys, which obviously we also missed. We had been told at the airport to collect our bags and seek a refund from Ryanair. But Ryanair has written to say that as the flight took off, no refund can be made. We ended up having to pay double, as we rebooked flights for the following week. NG, Edinburgh.

A. Our normal practice with any question submitted by a reader is to work with a company's media relations office to resolve the query or problem. Over the last decade, we have adopted this approach with many airlines, generally resolving problems in a straightforward way. We should, in fairness, say that we have had fewer complaints about Ryanair than some of their competitors. On this occasion, though, we have been frustrated in dealing with these two complaints.

When we forwarded the problem of RR of County Tyrone, Ryanair advised us that the matter was being transferred to the company's customer services department to resolve. Soon after, Ryanair contacted RR to make an improved offer of £696. At this point we asked Ryanair's media relations office to provide an explanation and comment regarding this offer, which was less than the amount claimed. We also forwarded the complaint by NG of Edinburgh.

The response, from Daniel de Carvalho, its European communications manager, was that "Ryanair passengers [sic] issues must be addressed with Ryanair customer service in writing as advised on Ryanair.com." We requested clarification, asking: "Am I to interpret that as a refusal by your office to deal with this enquiry, or to provide a comment on the previous enquiry forwarded? This, I would stress, is at variance with the policies and practices of all other European airlines that I have communicated with."

Mr de Carvalho gave the clarification that: "We are not refusing anything of the sort – we are providing you with advise [sic] for passengers and the advise [sic] is that 'Ryanair passengers should continue to address their issues with Customer Service who are better qualified to deal with customer issues." We responded with the comment: "Thanks, but I don't understand the difference in practice between what you are saying and the wording that I used." There was no subsequent reply. The Civil Aviation Authority told us that it was unable to intervene on readers' behalf. NG of Edinburgh informs us he has now been refunded with his flight costs, though not for the accommodation that was booked but not used.

Q. I read "Atol needs all the facts before spending public cash" (Questions of Cash, 5 March) and I realised that my own situation is similar. I booked a holiday to Zante in Greece on l June 2010, flying with Goldtrail and booked through a travel agency. When Goldtrail collapsed, I had to book extra flights. I initially paid £423 and then had to pay a further £500. Trying to get a remittance through the ATOL guarantee has been laborious and I am hitting the same brick walls: automated phone calls, promises of calls being returned and unanswered emails to the claims handling agency Huntswood. I have been patient, but this is now beyond a joke. Can you help? JM, by email.

A. Your repayment has now been authorised and will be with you shortly.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at: questionsofcash@ independent.co.uk.

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