A travel expert has come to the defence of Ryanair, saying that some airlines may come to regret not matching its not-so-generous pandemic fee-waiving policies.
Millions of passengers have seen their holiday plans collapse as a result of the government closing travel corridors to fight the pandemic – and in response, airlines have introduced policies to prevent them being penalised financially for rebooking flights.
Ryanair is one of them, but some have criticised the parameters of the policy. One passenger, Michelle Tougher, told MailOnline Travel she had to pay 330 euros (£300) to rebook a family flight to Tenerife that she couldn’t take because of the travel advice changing – the fee would have been waived if she’d booked the flight just five days later on June 10 this year.
A travel expert has come to the defence of Ryanair, saying that some airlines may come to regret not matching its not-so-generous pandemic fee-waiving policies
And until recently rebooking fees with Ryanair were waived only on flights booked for dates up to December 31, 2020. This has now changed to March 21, 2021. But still, the policy doesn’t look that generous compared to those of other airlines.
With Qatar Airways, for instance, all passengers who booked tickets before December 31, 2020, can change the date of travel an unlimited number of times for free and hold their ticket value for two years.
EasyJet, meanwhile, is allowing passengers to rearrange flights for free until the end of September 2021, and for now, keep on rearranging them at no extra cost.
And Virgin Atlantic says that customers with an original travel date between March 1, 2020, and November 30, 2020, may rebook with the date-change fee waived up until September 20, 2022.
However, Rob Burgess, editor of frequent flyer website Head for Points, said that he could understand Ryanair’s terms and conditions.
He told MailOnline Travel: ‘I have some sympathy for Ryanair, to be honest. Many airlines have let passengers move flights without penalty when their flight is still departing. By doing this, they leave themselves with fewer seats to sell next year, which means they will struggle to generate cash in 2021.
‘More redundancies will automatically follow. In the long run, other airlines may regret not taking a stronger line, saying “which bit of non-refundable don’t you understand?” and telling passengers to claim refunds from their travel insurance when their flight is still operating.’
Rob Burgess, editor of frequent flyer website Head for Points, said: ‘I have some sympathy for Ryanair. Many airlines have let passengers move flights without penalty when their flight is still departing. By doing this, they leave themselves with fewer seats to sell next year’
His remarks may anger some who feel they’re now out of pocket for having to rearrange a flight, but as he said – travel insurance may be an option.
InsureandGo, for example, said that it would certainly take a look at a claim for a rebooking fee, under certain circumstances.
It said: ‘We understand that many travellers have had to pay a rebooking fee in order to change a flight which has been disrupted due to Covid-19 and FCDO advice changes. In this scenario, it’s worth talking to your travel insurance provider to see if they can help with reimbursing these fees. Factors such as when the policy was bought and when flights were booked will determine whether or not you have cover in place.’
Martyn James, from complaint-resolving firm Resolver, said that travel insurance firms could ‘easily introduce a clause into their contracts where they covered such fees up to a certain amount – otherwise, there’s little incentive to get a travel insurance policy’.
With consumer confidence at an all-time low, can airlines really afford to continue sticking it to customers with policies which sound friendly, but overlook huge fees, like fare difference, which still will be charged?
Travel expert Gilbert Ott
He also called for an industry standard for fees and ‘an end to this pick a number approach’.
Travel expert and frequent flier Gilbert Ott, meanwhile, who runs the flight tips site God Save The Points, is also keen for airlines to simplify the process.
He said: ‘Consumers should be presented with things they can understand and easily digest to make informed decisions.’
He added: ‘With consumer confidence at an all-time low, can airlines really afford to continue sticking it to customers with policies which sound friendly, but overlook huge fees, like fare difference, which still will be charged? Anyone holding a ticket should be allowed an even swap for travel into 2021. All customers are good customers at this point.’
Mike Kane, Shadow Minister for Aviation, Maritime and Security, also called for more clarity.
He said: ‘The Government and Civil Aviation Authority must clarify guidance to airlines on issuing refunds and fees for changing flights affected by changing quarantine rules.
‘Airlines are facing huge volumes of enquiries and are working hard in unprecedented circumstances. But for thousands of customers, many who have seen their own incomes hit during the pandemic, it’s vital that fair refunds are issued and that passengers don’t lose out.
‘Labour has consistently called for a sectoral deal that supports the whole aviation industry and ensures passengers get fair refunds. Tory ministers have failed to act and ordinary people are paying the price.’
A government source said that if there is evidence of airlines taking advantage of the crisis, it would expect the regulator to act.