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. 
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’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:
Had our flights cancelled by @Ryanair early April and I’m still waiting for the refund. It’s nearly November ffs!
— Coulson Flooring (@CoulsonFlooring) October 19, 2020
I did the impossible guys – I got a refund from Ryanair.
— Emma (@EmzFool) October 13, 2020
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 CEOemail.com, 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.
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 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. 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
 FOI airline complaints response and spreadsheet to Helen Dewdney’s request available on request
 CAA launches consultation and tells no-one… https://www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk/caa-launches-consultation-and-tells-no-one/
 See details of the appointment https://www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk/civil-aviation-authority-caa-gets-new-chairman/