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Michelle Monck

Consumer Finance Expert
Published: 13/10/2021
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The removal of the amber travel list, along with the reduction of the number of PCR tests fully vaccinated adults need to take while travelling overseas, is helping to boost the autumn half term tourist season. There are reports this week that some travellers who have received chargeback refunds from Ryanair flights are not being allowed to fly with the airline unless they hand back their refunds. We look at what consumers’ travel and credit card rights are and how to prepare for an autumn half term trip.

Ryanair bans COVID refund passengers

This week it was reported that some holidaymakers who were unable to fly with Ryanair due to the pandemic, and who received a refund via their credit card companies using their ‘chargeback rights’ have now been banned from further Ryanair flights unless they return their refunded money to the airline.

Chargeback rights are made available by the credit card’s payment processor, most commonly Mastercard ® and Visa in the UK. This means that customers using these cards can make a refund claim if the retailer fails to deliver their product or service, these are defective, or the agreed contract is breached. Those using a credit card for items over £100 and up to £30,000 also get legal protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This makes the credit card company and retailer liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation of the retailer.

Refunds for flights to destinations that the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advised against travelling to are not automatically guaranteed and can depend on the airline’s own terms and conditions. Ryanair states that “Ryanair flights that operate as scheduled are non-refundable – this is clearly outlined in Ryanair's T&Cs agreed by the customer at the time of booking.” However, its competitors British Airways, Easyjet, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic have allowed passengers to rebook or receive a voucher in this instance.

Why is Ryanair asking customers to repay chargeback refunds?

Retailers are not directly involved in the decision to refund payments using chargebacks on a credit card. Claims made using a chargeback are handled by the customer’s credit card company and the retailer’s bank. The banks must adhere to the chargeback rules of the payment processor, so if the chargeback claim is valid the bank will issue the refund to the credit card.

Does this affect the protection available under chargebacks and Section 75?

Chargeback is a hugely important protection for consumers and there are no other incidents that we know of that are similar. Using a chargeback process is easier, cheaper, and quicker than the alternatives of making a complaint to an ombudsman or using the small claims courts.

Consumers that disagree with a chargeback decision, that also have Section 75 protection can then complain to the Financial Ombudsman. Those without this option can complain to the firm’s relevant industry ombudsman or use the small claims court as the final resort.

What can Ryanair customers do that have been asked to repay chargeback before being allowed to fly?

Customers could choose to use another airline instead for their flight. If this is not convenient or possible then they can complain directly to Ryanair and ask it to reconsider its decision about the chargeback needing to be repaid. Those that find this is not successful could choose to pay the chargeback and then make a chargeback claim for the second flight. If successful, this could result in the same situation happening again the next time you book another Ryanair flight. Ryanair is a member of AviationADR, an ombudsman for the airline industry.

What are your consumer rights when travelling?

Although international travel is now legal again, consumers may want to continue being cautious when booking holidays and flights to ensure that they are covered if travel restrictions are reintroduced or they cannot travel due to COVID. Booking a package holiday is often considered the best way to ensure holidaymakers are financially protected if there are any problems with travelling, and many travel companies have introduced COVID protection on their holiday packages. Alternatively, holidaymakers should carefully check the airline and hotel’s terms and conditions to ensure that they can get a full refund if they have to cancel their flight or hotel. Additionally, it is still worthwhile booking on a credit card as holidaymakers can claim their money back via Section 75 if the airline or hotel breaches their terms and conditions. Furthermore, travellers should ensure they have comprehensive travel insurance that protects them in the event their holiday is disrupted due to COVID.

New travel rules for UK tourists

This month the Government changed international travel rules, scrapping the amber list, reducing the number of countries on the red list, and most fully vaccinated travellers arriving from non-red list countries no longer have to take a COVID test before setting off for the UK. However, fully vaccinated travellers must still take a PCR test two days after arriving back in the UK. Holidaymakers should also be aware that the country they are travelling to will have their own requirements, which could include having to take a PCR test before departure, upon arrival, along with proving that they have been fully vaccinated.

How to prepare for your autumn holiday

When travelling abroad this half term, to help make the holiday as stress-free as possible, consumers should:

  • Check terms and conditions of the holiday or flights and hotel to ensure they are financially protected if the trip is cancelled due to COVID.
  • Take out comprehensive travel insurance that provides protection in the event of the holiday being disrupted due to the pandemic or they become ill with Covid-19 while abroad. This should include medical treatment and cover to return to the UK. We’ve rated travel insurers to help you find the best policies – see our travel insurance chart for those with Covid-19 cover.
  • Fully vaccinated travellers should ensure that they have a digital or paper NHS COVID Pass if required by their travel destination.
  • Travellers should consider exchanging money in the UK before flying abroad as currency exchange is often more expensive at airports. More information about currency exchange charges can be found by reading our guide on how exchange rates work.
  • Consumers planning to pay by card during their holiday should consider getting a travel credit card that does not charge a foreign usage fee. More information about travel credit cards can be found by visiting our comparison credit card chart.

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