The UK’s competition authority has said that it is launching enforcement action against Ryanair and British Airways over their failure to offer refunds to passengers who were barred from taking flights under COVID-19 lockdown rules.
During COVID-19 lockdowns across the UK, instead of offering refunds to those legally unable to fly, International Airlines Group (IAG)-owned British Airways offered vouchers or rebooking and Ryanair provided the option to rebook.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that the airlines might have breached consumer law and it has opened enforcement cases against them.
The regulator’s move comes at a desperate time for airlines that have been adversely impacted by 15 months of COVID-19 restrictions.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said that the difficult environment for airlines does not mean that consumers should 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,” Coscelli said in a statement.
Ryanair said that it welcomes the review of its policies and that it has paid refunds in justified cases after reviewing each case.
British Airways said that it has acted lawfully at all times.
“It is incredible that the government is seeking to punish further an industry that is on its knees, after prohibiting airlines from meaningful flying for well over a year now,” it said by e-mail, saying that any action taken against the industry threatens to destabilise it.
Both airlines said that they have offered their customers flexible booking policies and British Airways said that it has issued more than three million refunds since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CMA said that it has written to both airlines and is seeking a resolution that might include refunds or other forms of…