Ryanair has accused some online travel agents of blocking direct contact between the airline and customers and, in some cases, “refusing” to pass on refunds for passengers.
Europe’s leading budget carrier said companies such as Opodo, Lastminute.com and Kiwi routinely fail to pass on customers’ card details, meaning the agent gets reimbursed instead of the consumer when a refund is issued.
These online agents use corporate credit cards to book the flights, claims Ryanair; and when the customer chases up a refund for a cancelled flight, they find the money has already been transferred to the agent.
This is despite the fact that, under EU rules, passengers are entitled to claim their refund direct from the airline, irrespective of who they booked through.
The Guardian reports that more than 300 readers have been in touch complaining about this issue.
One customer, Stanley Batchelor, reported trying to get a refund for a cancelled easyJet flight through Opodo for four months. After eventually resorting to contacting the airline directly, he was told that the money had been reimbursed – but to a credit card he didn’t recognise.
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“Opodo confirmed it was their card, but said they couldn’t pass on the money because it had not reached their account,” he said, adding that he was only refunded four weeks later, following the newspaper’s intervention.
Ryanair also claims that external agents block direct contact between customers and airlines to try to obscure the surcharges they add to the price of a flight.
“In many cases these unauthorised screen scrapers are scamming customers by overcharging customers and then booking on Ryanair’s website with fake customer contact and credit card details, then claiming customer refunds directly into their own accounts, and in some cases, refusing to pass this money onto customers,” said Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson.
For example, a Guardian investigation found that agents in some instances upped the airline’s original price for baggage and seat reservations by 85 per cent.
“While we are successfully refunding cash to millions of customers who booked direct, meaning we had genuine customer email contact and payment details, we have been unable to deal with thousands of customers who booked through these unauthorised screen scraper websites because they provide false/fictitious customer contact and payment details when booking on Ryanair’s website,” added Wilson.
“These anti-consumer practices should be investigated by consumer associations and regulators (CAA & CAR) to ensure that these unauthorised screen scrapers are forced to supply accurate customer contacts so that Ryanair can process customer refunds, flight changes and urgent travel notifications.”
The Independent has contacted Opodo, Kiwi and Lastminute.com for comment.
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