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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

Companies customer service Holidays and transport Latest News

Ryanair in fresh misleading information claims

Ryanair is continuing to misinform its passengers about their legal rights.

In continued problems for Ryanair, the airline announced that 150 out of the 400 flights scheduled to fly to and from Germany would be cancelled on 12 September 2018, due to a 24-hour strike by pilots and cabin crew.

Ryanair appears to be sticking to its position on not paying compensation to its beleagured passengers.  A spokesperson for the airline said “Ryanair complies fully with EU261 legislation, under which no compensation is payable to customers when the (strike) delay/cancellation is beyond the airline’s control. If these strikes, by a tiny minority of Ryanair pilots, were within Ryanair’s control, there would have been no strikes and no cancellations.”

Ryanair’s position runs contrary to a ruling by the European Court of Justice from April 2018. The case of Helga Krüsemann and Others v TUIfly GmbH  found that a strike by an airline company’s employees are not “extraordinary circumstances” for the purposes of compensation.

Ryanair aeroplanes on runway text Ryanair misinformation continues

Back in August I, spotted more irregularity regarding Ryanair and compensation. As a general rule of thumb, travellers are due EU compensation if a flight is cancelled or arrives more than 3 hours late. However… for flights up to 3,500km in length, there are varying amounts of compensation when travellers are bumped from a flight due to overbooking and are delayed by UPTO 3 hours. This is also the case for flights where travellers have been given fewer than 14 days’ notice of a cancellation.  (Travellers are not entitled to a full refund plus compensation, the compensation can only be claimed if you experienced the delay as part of your journey not sitting in your departure airport. If you didn’t travel, then you are not entitled to compensation.)

As of today (17 September 2018) the Ryanair EU Compensation claim form still provided the following misinformation:

“Delayed refers to flight delays over three hours. Claims will not be accepted for delays less than three hours”.

So, it appears that, in addition to Ryanair telling passengers they are not entitled to compensation due to pilot strikes, it is also denying them further rights for shorter journeys.

In August of this year I brought this to the attention of the CAA for action by the regulator. A spokesperson for the CAA said:

“We thank ‘The Complaining Cow website’ for highlighting this issue with Ryanair.  The UK Civil Aviation Authority will be asking the airline to review the way it displays information to ensure consumers are fully aware of their rights.”

As of 17 September 2018 the site still says 3 hours. Be wary of being denied their rights by airlines such as Ryanair. It really is about time the CAA took control of the situation with Ryanair. Last year it took enforcement action for persistently misleading passengers with inaccurate information about their rights in respect of cancellations. The same is happening again, and although the CAA has issued a statement saying that Ryanair should be paying compensation, it has so far fallen short of taking enforcement action.

For more information about the Ryanair story, how you CAN claim, what you should quote to increase your chances of being successful and the issues around further action and ADR, see Landing in court with Ryanair.

Your rights Ryanair strikes


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