The UK’s markets watchdog has begun an investigation into British Airways and Ryanair today, to find whether they broke the law in not offering refunds for flights struck by lockdown laws.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be looking at a potential breach in consumers’ legal rights when they were left out of pocket for flights they legally could not take.
The probe will eye where the airlines continued to operate flights – despite people being unable to travel for non-essential purposes in the UK or internationally.
BA and its London City based subsidiary CityFlyer will be investigated.
“While we understand that airlines have had a tough time during the pandemic, people should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law,” CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said.
“Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances entirely outside of their control. We believe these people should have been offered their money back.”
According to the CMA, Ryanair told the watchdog that they repaid a small number of people after reviewing the specifics of their cases.
The CMA also urged that it should not be assumed at this stage that the airlines have broken the law – as only a court can decide.
Investors in either airline seemingly shrugged off the threat of a probe, with shares in Ryanair up 2.4 per cent and British Airways owner IAG up 3.2 per cent this morning.
Industry ‘on its knees’
A spokesperson for British Airways said: “During this unprecedented crisis we have issued well over 3m refunds and helped millions of our customers change their travel dates or destinations and we’re grateful to them for their ongoing support.
“It is incredible that the government is seeking to punish further an industry that is on its knees, after prohibiting airlines from meaningful flying for well over a year now. Any action taken against our industry will only serve to destabilise it, with potential consequences for jobs, business, connectivity and the UK economy.”
Ryanair said that it welcomed CMA’s review: “Ryanair has approached such refund requests on a case by case basis and has paid refunds in justified cases.
“Since June 2020, all our customers have also had the ability to rebook their flights without paying a change fee and millions of our UK customers have availed of this option.”