The Irish Travel Agents Association claims its members are owed around €20 million in refund payments by Ryanair.
The ITAA said members “continue to have problems with accessing flight refunds from Ryanair, and that this issue continues to affect bricks-and-mortar travel agents and online travel agents alike”.
The association accused the airline of running “ghost flights” – despite travel restrictions – with few passengers onboard, to avoid paying refunds.
“Customers are instead being offered the option to reschedule their holiday or receive a voucher from the airline,” the ITAA said.
“The ITAA believes that under current government advice relating to non-essential travel, these flights should be cancelled and the consumer should be refunded.”
It said members have sent in “thousands of claims” to Ryanair.
“Those affected include a small travel agent in Munster owed €60,000, a travel agent specialising in school tours waiting for refunds of half a million euros and a prominent travel agency waiting on refunds for 1,400 customers.
"Overall, ITAA member travel agents are currently owed roughly €20 million in refund payments from Ryanair.”
The ITAA has approached Ireland’s Commission for Aviation Regulation to try to reach a solution, as well as liaising with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and contacting Ryanair directly.
Pat Dawson, ITAA chief executive, said: “We want to work with Ryanair in getting customers refunded. But we have to go with Ryanair’s mechanisms, which are cumbersome. We ask our customers to be patient with us.
“We are securing refunds but it is taking time.”
Ryanair dismissed the ITAA’s claims as “false”, saying it had not dealt with travel agents for “over 20 years and does not permit travel agents or other unauthorised third parties to make bookings on Ryanair.com”.
“However, a small number of passengers who booked through unauthorised third party travel agents have not and will not receive refunds unless they request their refund by filling in the Customer Verification Form on the Ryanair website so that Ryanair may route any refund directly to the consumer rather than via third party travel agents.
“This is to avoid many cases where travel agents have not passed on refunds to the customer. Ryanair will not refund unlicensed third party intermediaries who made unauthorised bookings in breach of Ryanair’s terms and conditions, and provided Ryanair with fake contact and/or fake payment details, solely so they could mislead the consumer with hidden or undisclosed fees and handling charges.
“If, as Mr Dawson of the ITAA claims, Irish travel agents “wish to get refunds for their customers”, then all they have to do is to ask those customers to apply directly to Ryanair, using Ryanair’s Customer Verification Form and Ryanair will refund directly to the customer the actual airfare that was paid by the unauthorised intermediary travel agent.
“This will expose the fact that many of these consumers have overpaid for tickets that were available at lower prices on the Ryanair.com website.”