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Ryanair passengers accuse airline of ‘blackmail’ after being banned from flying over refund queue

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Outraged Ryanair customers have accused the budget airline of ‘blackmail’ after it apparently blocked passengers from taking flights over disputed refunds.

Ireland’s low-cost airline customers claim they have been banned from Ryanair flights until they have been ‘refunded’ for missed travel during the Covid pandemic.

Ryanair customers say the airline refused to refund them for flights they withdrew due to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice not to travel.

They turned to credit card “chargebacks” — a feature that allows credit card and debit card users to reverse a disputed transaction — to get their money back.

But when the same customers tried to book new flights through the budget airline, the company refused to let them fly until they refunded the money, a study by MoneySavingExpert found.

Some customers even claimed that they received a payment request at check-in just hours before they were due to fly.

Personal finance experts have described the decision to block people over the refund queue as ‘outrageous’, while a Ryanair customer on social media accused the budget airline of ‘blackmail’.

But Ryanair has defended its actions, saying it has the right to stop passengers flying if they owe the company money.

What is a chargeback and how does it work?

Customers of certain credit card companies, such as Amex, Mastercard and Visa, can use chargeback to recover disputed payments made with debit, credit and debit cards.

The process is usually used when a company denies a refund and, if requested, the bank intervenes to recover the money from the supplier’s bank.

The feature is especially useful for customers when a company goes bankrupt in the time between payment and delivery of goods or services, as the money can usually still be recovered from the supplier’s bank – although this is not always guaranteed.

But to use chargeback, you need to prove that you first tried to get a refund and that your request was denied.

Customers must submit a claim within 120 days of purchase or payment for the service.

And it’s especially useful when an item or service costs less than £100 – above that, the more powerful and legally backed Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act is available.

The argument between the airline and customers is over the chargeback feature available through payment cards.

Customers of certain credit card companies, such as Amex, Mastercard and Visa, can use chargeback to recover disputed payments made with debit, credit and debit cards.

The process is usually used when a company refuses a refund and, if requested, the bank intervenes to recover the money from the supplier’s bank.

The feature is especially useful for customers when a company goes bankrupt in the time between payment and delivery of goods or services, as the money can usually still be recovered from the supplier’s bank – although this is not always guaranteed.

But to use chargeback, you need to prove that you first tried to get a refund and that your request was denied.

Customers must submit a claim within 120 days of purchase or payment for the service.

And it’s especially useful when an item or service costs less than £100 – above that, the more powerful and legally backed Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act is available.

Rapidly evolving travel policies earlier this year forced some vacationers to make difficult decisions about whether or not to fly.

While some countries on the Department for Transport’s travel list were marked as green or orange, sometimes flying to these countries was prohibited by separate FCDO guidelines, often invalidating travel insurance policies.

It meant that even though customers felt compelled not to travel, the flights went ahead anyway.

And Ryanair’s terms and conditions state that it will not give refunds to customers who voluntarily choose not to travel on flights that are still going.

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) – which recently shut down an investigation into Ryanair and British Airlines over complaints they refused to give refunds for missed flights in the Covid pandemic – says you won’t get refunds for flights when an FCDO warning is in effect. But it says such refunds are “not impossible.”

British Airways, Easyjet, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic told passengers who missed such flights that they can rebook or in some cases request a voucher in this scenario.

However, some customers, who wanted a full cash refund, used a chargeback to recover the money for missed flights.

Now the company is demanding the money back from customers so that they can continue to use Ryanair.

Travel attorneys Coby Benson of Bott and Co and Colin Murphy of Leigh Day told MoneySavingExpert that the airline was wrong in subsequently banning passengers from flying unless they refund the money.

He said: “The question is whether there were ‘reasonable grounds’ for denying boarding, and in this case I don’t think there are.”

Meanwhile, Mastercard and Visa told the website that while a retailer has the option to challenge a chargeback claim, the card company’s decision is final.

Amex, it reported, would not give its opinion on the matter.

Guy Anker, deputy editor of MoneySavingExpert.com, described Ryanair’s decision to refuse passenger flights as “outrageous”.

He said: ‘Some may be sympathetic to the airline as it incurred the cost of the original flights that went through and those passengers chose not to take.

“However, it has used up all sympathy by the way it is treated with holidaymakers afterwards.

“The concern is that this could happen again, so if you’ve made a chargeback against Ryanair, think twice before booking with Ryanair again.”

He added: ‘But don’t let this stop you from using chargeback. It’s still a very useful schedule and we can’t recall ever seeing an incident like this before.

“Even if it’s to get a refund from Ryanair, do that and then choose another airline to fly with.”

MailOnline contacted Ryanair for a response but received no response in time for publication.

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