The news follows last week’s reports that agents who had packaged up cancelled Ryanair flights could face hefty bills for accommodation that clients could no longer use.
Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, said at the time that agents making Flight-Plus bookings were likely to be affected, with both the flight and the accommodation having to be refunded, “which could affect a lot of agents”.
However, the CAA confirmed to TTG this week that agents would not be obliged to refund customer monies lost on car hire or accommodation.
A CAA spokesperson told TTG: “Atol Regulation 30 makes it clear that a Flight-Plus arranger is only liable to provide alternative living accommodation and/or car-hire where the non-availability of the flight accommodation is due to insolvency.
“Therefore, under the Atol regulations, an Atol holder who has sold a Ryanair seat as part of a Fight-Plus arrangement is not obliged to refund the accommodation or car-hire component.”
Bowen said: “The CAA had never considered the situation because the whole point of the Atol certificate is to ensure consumer protection against losing money.
“In view of the thousands of customers affected and there being no possibility of agents recovering losses through airline failure insurance, the CAA is not going to make agents refund cancelled accommodation if there are no flights available to match the accommodation.
“The CAA has taken a pragmatic view that the consequences are too great,” he added. “Agents couldn’t take out insurance against a decision by an airline to cancel up to 50 flights a day.”
Around 315,000 customers have been affected by Ryanair’s 2,100 flight cancellations. This week the carrier said it had processed refunds for more than 97% of affected customers, with the remaining customers (fewer than a 10,000) still to contact Ryanair.
Meanwhile, rival airline chief Willie Walsh offered a surprising show of support for Ryanair this week in an on-stage interview at the World Routes 2017 conference.
Asked his opinion on the situation, the IAG chief executive said following British Airways’ own issues this year, which saw its IT system crash in May, he was not about to start crowing over a rival’s problems, although he admitted he was keeping an eye on it.
“I don’t take any real pleasure out of it as we’ve had our own problems. They’ll fix it; their ability to fix things is unparalleled. We’ll all learn from it.
“It is one of those things that should never have happened but it did. Learning from things that go wrong is [part of] life, as long as you don’t keep repeating it.”
Claire Wenham, Essex, 31
“I wouldn’t fly with Ryanair because I don’t feel that I can trust them anymore. I would worry that further cancellations would happen and I could end up losing my holiday. I was considering flying with them next year but now I’m looking at getting the Eurostar.”
Bill Mclelland, London, 50
“Even before this I would not have flown with Ryanair, as I have had bad experiences with them. The one flight I took was overbooked – I got onboard, but others didn’t. It doesn’t surprise me that their management team failed so miserably; it’s inexcusable.”
Yasim Hassan, London, 31
“This is annoying for passengers, especially given the hotels and car hire they will have pre-booked. Trying to get their money back will be complicated. I haven’t flown with Ryanair before and I probably won’t now because the number of flights they cancelled is shocking.”