RYANAIR customers fear they may have to wait 12 months to get a cash refund for cancelled flights following an email sent out by the budget airline.
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Ryanair initially allowed customers to apply for a cash refund at the start of the crisis.
The company then started issuing flight vouchers instead, and told customers cash refunds could only be applied for after the coronavirus crisis had passed.
In its latest email to customers, Ryanair now states that vouchers will be automatically exchanged for cash if they aren't used within 12 months.
The email reads: “You have recently received an email with a voucher code to the value of your original booking.
Is Ryanair operating any flights?
RYANAIR has grounded 99 per cent of its fleet due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The remaining flights are operating on an emergency schedule only for passengers trying to return to the UK.
The majority of flights from the UK are to Dublin or Cork, with European destinations Eindhoven, Lisbon, Budapest and Cork.
Flights from Dublin are predominately to UK airports, although are also flying to Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, Cologne and Lisbon.
The current flight schedule is in place until April 30, although this is likely to be extended.
“Please note that this voucher is valid for 12 months and can be used for your future travel plans.
“Please note that if you do not use the voucher before the expiry date you will receive a full cash refund.
“In the event you use the voucher in part, you will also receive the option of voucher for the balance or a cash refund after the expiry date.”
Ryanair then includes a link at the bottom of the email for customers to accept their voucher.
Some Ryanair customers say they've been waiting up to 10 weeks to get a cash refund for their cancelled flight.
One frustrated customer tweeted the airline: "I am STILL receiving emails asking me to accept a voucher which I DID NOT ask for.
"You asked me to DM details a week ago to put me on the cash refund list, which I did.
"Why am I still getting these emails 10 WEEKS after applying for a cash refund?"
Another passenger said: "I've now had another email saying you'll give me my money back if I've not spent the voucher in 12 months.
"I want my refund now. I have already applied for a cash refund AND DM'd you to request to be added to the list.
"No response. Literally the worst customer service."
A third tweeted: "Can you please tell me how I get a refund for flights cancelled?
"Like many others I got emails saying I could apply for a refund and went through that process only to get a travel voucher back instead.
"Then your website just sends you round in circles or is too busy!"
Another customer tweeted: "Not sure what isn’t clear Ryanair - I have requested and asked for a refund, but instead another email received today, talking again about a voucher - which if I don’t use in 12 months I will then get a refund.. really?"
Ryanair told The Sun that this email was sent as a reminder for customers who want to accept a flight voucher over cash.
The airline said passengers can still choose not to accept the voucher and request a cash refund instead.
Ryanair said cash refunds will be processed in "due course" but didn't give an exact date.
A spokesperson from Ryanair said: "For any cancelled flight, Ryanair is giving customers all of the options set out under EU regulations, including free moves and refunds in the form of cash or vouchers.
"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 not to accept a free move or voucher will be refunded in due course, once this unprecedented crisis is over."
Your rights to a cash refund from Ryanair
Consumer group Which? says Ryanair is breaking the law by not processing cash refunds to customers within seven days.
Which? is also advising customers not to click on the email link to accept the voucher, as this could lead to passengers surrendering their rights to a cash refund.
In the unlikely event of Ryanair going bust, a travel voucher would not be financially protected.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: "This latest shift in Ryanair’s refund policy shows blatant disregard for the many customers who have been strung along by the airline while they desperately try to get their money back.
"Ryanair’s repeated attempts to push vouchers on customers who have been clear that they want the refund they are legally entitled to are completely unacceptable.
"It is time for the CAA to get tough with the many airlines openly flouting the law and those playing fast and loose with the rules."
Claim a refund through your debit or credit card
If you're struggling to get your money back from Ryanair, you may have better luck claiming through your debit or credit card provider.
For credit card payments between £100 and £30,000, you can make a claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act.
To start the process, you need to contact your credit card provider directly and state that you didn't receive the service you paid for.
For debit card payments, or credit card purchases under £100, you might be able to make a claim via the Chargeback scheme.
You'll need to contact your card provider directly to start a Chargeback claim, but as it isn’t written into law there is no guarantee you’ll get your money back.
You must also start your claim within 120 days of the transaction.
If this proves unsuccessful, you can take your claim to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.
Claim a refund through your travel insurer
If you have travel insurance, you could also consider making a claim to your provider - but it'll depend on the type of cover you paid for.
You'll also likely have to pay excess to get your cash.
Some insurers also stopped covering coronavirus-related cancellation so check your policy carefully.
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