Regulator drops BA and Ryanair lockdown flights refund case

The Competition regulator dropped an investigation into British Airways and Ryanair's failure to refund customers who couldn't legally fly because of coronavirus restrictions. However, it said that the airlines should have given the money back.
According to the Competition and Markets Authority, (CMA), it decided to end its four-month-long investigation due to a lack in clarity in the law. This makes it uncertain that it will be able secure customer refunds.

The airlines refused to refund customers during periods of lockdown when non-essential travel was prohibited in certain parts of the UK. IAG owned British Airways offered customers vouchers and rebooking while Ryanair only offered the option of rebooking.

In June, the CMA opened an investigation into Ryanair and BA. It cited concerns that Ryanair might not have offered refunds in accordance with consumer law.

The regulator stated that the long-running court battle and the uncertain outcome of the winning side of the case meant that it was no longer financially viable to pursue the case.

Andrea Coscelli (chief executive of the CMA) stated that people who are prevented from flying because of lockdown laws should receive a full refund.

After reviewing the law and gathering evidence during our investigation, however, we concluded that the time required to get this through the courts and the uncertain outcome could not be justified by the additional expense of public funds.

CMA stated that consumers who were unfairly disadvantaged by the decision not to refund them had been crucial and that it hoped the law would be clarified in this area.

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Rory Boland (travel editor at the consumer watchdog) said that it was unfair that passengers were left to pay the cost of following the law and protecting public safety by staying home.

British Airways and Ryanair were allowed to keep their cash for legal flights. It is urgent that the government outlines how it intends to revise travel regulations and increase consumer protections. Consumers are being disappointed.

British Airways claimed it had acted lawfully during the pandemic. It issued nearly 4m refunds, and offered highly flexible booking policies that allowed millions of customers to alter their travel dates or destination.

Ryanair was happy to end the investigation. They pointed out that passengers could change their bookings at no additional cost. Many people took advantage of this option.

After reports that passengers were denied refunds for flights they weren't legally allowed to take, the CMA launched an investigation into the airline sector in December 2020.