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Ryanair tops the CAA refund complaints figures

Press release

Low-cost airline is highest in regulator’s complaints figures

Ryanair is the most complained about airline by far, according to figures recently released by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

A Freedom of Information Request reveals that more than half of all the 1280 complaints received by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regarding refunds due to COVID-19 related cancellations were about Ryanair. The CAA received 642 complaints about Ryanair. The second most complained about airline, Air Transat, was not even close, with a total of only 120 complaints. [1]

The CAA has collated the information on 74 airlines. recording how many passengers have complained about cancellation refunds during the COVID-19 pandemic period.

In its FOI response the CAA said that “Should any airline fall short of the commitments they have made, we will not hesitate to take any further action where required.” However, in its review into airline refund practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ryanair was one of the airlines identified by the CAA as not processing refund requests sufficiently quickly. The CAA found that the airline had a sizeable backlog of refund requests and that refunds were taking 10 weeks or longer.

Ryanair aeroplane in sky

Ryanair’s broken promise

On 3 July, Ryanair published a set of commitments on its website about timescales for processing cash refunds. Ryanair confirmed that 90% of its backlog would be cleared by the end of July with all refund claims made in April to be processed by 15 July and most of the claims made in May by the end of July. Their website now states that more than 90% were processed by the end of July but there is no update nearly 3 months on and customers are still waiting for refunds today:


So, what action is the CAA taking against Ryanair, a company that is flagrantly breaking the law on refunds of cancelled flights?  It is not doing anything…

Passengers take matters further

Passengers who fail to get their refunds are bypassing the tortuously long delays that Ryanair appears to to be imposing on them. Marcus Williamson, editor of the consumer information website, says “Ryanair customers who email the CEO are having success in getting their refunds processed, but some have had to threaten legal action before getting a positive result.”

Clearly Ryanair knows it is breaking the law by not making these refunds in a timely manner and makes the refund when threatened with legal action by its customers. Ironically, by threatening legal action, Ryanair’s own customers are achieving far more than the CAA is doing in trying to get the company to respect the law!

Ryanair was asked to comment but refused to do so.

CAA fails again

This is the latest in a series of failures by the CAA. Less than two weeks ago Helen Dewdney – The Complaining Cow a consumer champion – exposed the CAA for launching a consultation on Alternative Dispute Resolution without telling stakeholders, covering it on social media or any press release. The exposé prompted the regulator to reopen the consultation for a further 6 weeks.[2]

If a consumer is unable to resolve their complaint with their airline, they can escalate it to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body or, if their airline is not a member of an ADR scheme, through the CAA. Ryanair is no longer a member of an ADR scheme. However, the CAA has done little to address the problems regarding ADR[3]  or Ryanair’s illegal behaviour.

In December 2018 the CAA stated that it was taking enforcement action against Ryanair for the company’s failure to pay compensation to passengers when the airline staff took strike action. Nearly two years on there has been no update about what action the CAA will take.

New CAA Chairman but passengers still losing out

A new Chairman started at the CAA on 1 August 2020.[4] But unfortunately the new chair, Sir Stephen Hillier, has been ineffective in tackling airlines that are continuing to break the law on consumer refunds.

Dewdney says that she is not surprised by the latest findings:

“The Competition and Markets Authority has taken enforcement action against companies that are breaking the law, such as holiday companies. It continues to keep the public informed with guidance and has used its regulatory powers to tale enforcement action.

In contrast, the CAA has similar powers but has shown itself to be not fit for purpose. Over and over again, it is finding in favour of airlines and letting them behave illegally. The CAA needs to use its enforcement powers to revoke airline operating licenses where airlines do not comply with the law.”

Notes to Editors

[1] FOI airline complaints response and spreadsheet to Helen Dewdney’s request available on request

[2] CAA launches consultation and tells no-one…

[3] See Ombudsman Omnishambles and the More Ombudsman Omnishambles reports which looked at approval and monitoring of ADR schemes.

[4] See details of the appointment

Business Latest News

The Art of reviving the great British High Street

The great British High Street is in trouble and needs help!

Of course, shopping centres and High Streets have been in trouble for years and nothing has been done about it. Shops have survived in towns and cities where there was glimmer of innovation. Many chains were already in difficulty before the pandemic and again, in some places, the attitude of town and city councils has helped.

A costly business

Running a local shop is expensive. For many years there have been calls for landlords and councils to reduce rent and rates, particularly for small and independent shops. Flexibility in leases, councils acquiring empty shops, provide free parking, reducing the numbers of cafes, betting shops and fast food outlets and introducing markets would all help.

Woman in hat painting on a wall

Different ways of working in our town centres and High Street

The pandemic has changed some things forever. People have found different ways of working, with a flexibility that many were demanding for years. If we had resolved transport problems and already had flexible working for all employees we’d be in a much better position now.

There are calls on Government to encourage people back to the office to stimulate the passing trade for local businesses. However, businesses are finding that flexibility in working is now saving costs, so they won’t be rushing to get staff back in and certainly not if they can’t do it safely. Even if they did this alone, it is not enough to stimulate the town centres and High Streets.

Getting creative

So, we need to get more creative than that. The innovation that is needed for calls for different people to do the job. We need a change at the top of local planning. “Don’t put a ‘Retail expert’ or ‘Town Planner’ in charge of rejuvenating our towns.

Let’s be a little more radical when working within towns:

There’s a difference between a run-of-the-mill project manager working creatively and a creative person working creatively. The creative person can bring a whole wealth of knowledge, skills, imagination, inspiration, experience and vision to the table.

A change in leadership for our town developments

Someone with project management experience is certainly needed. But not a retail background. An experienced individual with an arts background who will bring a whole new and fresh approach. Many will already be experienced in truly working in partnership with other organisations and are effective when working with limited resources! They will bring in community groups from which great things grow, so as to bring in custom in a whole new way. The very basic and most obvious is of course the community cafes and the work that goes on in them, and different pop up stalls each month, but there is so much more that could be done.

Give High Streets their heart again

High streets desperately need their heart back. Empty shops and empty talk of lower rates with better parking will not populate those spaces not filled by vaping stores, betting shops or tanning booths. We’ve all had to learn the value of home deliveries and staying local but Julie Ashworth founder and director of BroadReach Retail consultants notes that Covid hasn’t been all bad for retail…

“Think bikes, think the growth of random local pop ups touting cakes, bread, delis and plants. Independents CAN thrive if the High Street is allowed to be a place of community, of socialising, culture, health, leisure and creativity rather than just a place we visit for shopping and work. Online doesn’t always have to mean Amazon!”, she says.

“It could mean social ownership, shared local websites alongside not for profit communities. Have a heart…think community, think diversity, think about investing in the High Street.”

Shopping and Spectacle

Bringing people to the High Street and town centres is not just about shops and cafés. People are attracted to meeting and being with more of their community doing a variety of things.

How about going to the town centre because you know there’s a chance there might be a flash mob….? Going because you want to see what the theatre group is putting on there this week…? Going to see what the student musicians are doing…? Going to join a workshop and learn new skills…? Going to see what the latest art project is so you can join in with, look at and maybe buy…

By thinking creatively you can capture the imaginations of the families looking and needing to balance necessity with family fun, believes Nicole Louise Geddes from Manic Stage Productions. She says:

“By adding a creative figurehead to oversee the development of town centres and implement sustainable development through strategic planning and fun is a no-brainer to people like me. Local creative communities are crying out to be seen and to meet new potential customers and club members so by giving them a free platform and space to shout about and share their visions and talents could be a great initiative for all involved. Town centres could and should be the heart of a community, many high streets are currently soulless and lacking imagination.

We all know that the arts bring joy to so many, and so many are ready and waiting to deliver joy if the opportunity were to arise. Covid has brought a variety of obstacles for the local community group struggling to navigate the mitigation indoors and with hire charge and participant conundrums etc. The high street is a perfect alternative and a place where councils can step up and help bring together many different organisations and a large cross section of the community with the correct creative strategy and understanding.”

Dragging the kids shopping can be a difficult experience! How much easier would it be to have activities that they can join in? A reason for them to go too.

The list is endless for a creative. Something interactive, something to gain your interest and while you’re there grabbing a cuppa and a cake and buy the pair of jeans that you can see before buying. The list of what a creative could bring to the town centre is limitless and therefore so is the potential growth.

It’s all about people

There were calls to get people back into the office to support the local businesses who depend on workers for their trade. However, if people continue to work from home the empty offices could be converted into homes, helping both the housing crisis and having people living on the doorsteps of these local shops and trades. This would obviously need infrastructure but could also boost the economy. Furthermore, new laws could stop the current trend whereby overseas buyers purchase empty buildings for investment and leave them empty.

Our town centres and High Streets need to offer more and differently. What people want. Ask children and young people what they want too!

A creative plea

There are some amazing talented creatives out of work at the moment. Give them work redesigning our High Streets with completely new perspectives and unique vision. Not only will that stimulate the local businesses and economy it will attract the eyes of other authorities and media too!

man dancing in street with one hand on the ground

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