Customers said they went to check-in for flights booked this year, only to discover that they were unable to do so unless they returned previous refunds.
An investigation by MoneySavingExpert (MSE) found that three passengers had endured the same experience after claiming refunds for 2020 flights via their credit cards using the 'chargeback' purchase protection scheme.
All three had decided not to fly in response to government warnings against non-essential travel to their chosen destinations at that time.
When Ryanair refused to refund them, they successfully put in a claim with their credit card company – in each case, American Express – which agreed they could be reimbursed as the services paid for were not received.
According to the passengers, Ryanair didn't dispute two of the cases, and the one it did contest was upheld by Amex.
The customers only realised there was an issue when they booked and paid for flights with Ryanair again this year, only to be barred from checking in unless they returned their refunds.
In one case, the passenger only became aware of the issue just days before they were due to travel.
One passenger told MoneySavingExpert: “Travelling with Covid restrictions is stressful but this totally unforeseen payment demand took stress to a new level. Ryanair took a new booking for flights and surprised me when I tried to check in online three days before travelling to discover this demand.”
Ryanair did offer to return the money for this year's flights if the three customers did not repay the chargeback – however, in one case, a passenger stood to lose hundreds of pounds in accommodation, car hire and Covid testing costs.
Ryanair says its T&Cs state that if flights still go ahead they are non-refundable, and that the airline can deny boarding to customers who have “recharged against us” for a previous flight.
British Airways, easyJet, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic have all said they would not prevent passengers who had received a chargeback refund from travelling in future.
“This is absolutely outrageous behaviour from Ryanair,” said Guy Anker, deputy editor at MoneySavingExpert.
“It essentially had these passengers over a barrel shortly before their holiday at a point which turned excitement into stress and anxiety. And by its fraud department collecting the money, passengers could be forgiven for feeling scared and thinking Ryanair considers they are somehow in trouble.
”Some may have sympathy for Ryanair given it incurred the costs of the original flights that did go ahead that passengers chose not to take. However, it's then used up any sympathy by the way it's treated holidaymakers afterwards.”
Ryanair issued the following statement in response to the cases brought to it by MSE: “Mr Johnston initiated a chargeback via his bank for the value of his flights. However, refunds are only permitted for cancelled flights so the outstanding balance was added to Mr Johnston's Ryanair account as this is still owed to Ryanair.
”Ryanair flights that operate as scheduled are non-refundable – this is clearly outlined in Ryanair's T&Cs agreed by the customer at the time of booking.“
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