Ryanair to process all Covid-19 refunds within 10 weeks, Michael O’Leary says

Airline boss criticises British government’s plans for quarantine period for travellers

Ryanair expects to have processed all refunds for flights cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic within 10 weeks, chief executive Michael O'Leary has said.

The airline has predicted that the Covid-19 pandemic will have cost it €200 million in the three months to the end of June, with more than 99 per cent of its fleet grounded during the period. It intends to begin flying 40 per cent of its schedule from July 1st.

However, due to the grounding of its fleet, the airline has a responsibility to refund customers for related cancelled flights. It is believed to be on the hook for €1.2 billion in refunds. About €400 million of this has already been processed.

Speaking in a prerecorded interview on ITV’s Peston, broadcast on Wednesday, Mr O’Leary said he expected the remainder of the refunds to be processed in the next eight to 10 weeks.


“People need to understand we’re dealing with an unprecedented, historic volume of refunds,” he said. “We in Ryanair normally deal with about 10,000 refunds a month.

“However, because we’ve been grounded for the last three months by government restrictions, we’re dealing with about 35 million refunds.

“At the moment we’re about 40 per cent of the way through that backlog. We expect now to eliminate all of those remaining refunds for the months of April, May and June, probably in the next eight to 10 weeks.”

Scathing criticism

Mr O’Leary also had scathing criticism on the British government and its plans to impose a 14-day quarantine period on people arriving at airports from overseas.

“Regrettably, it’s been one shambles after another, of mismanagement, making it up as they go along, and the latest of which has been today’s frankly shambolic announcement of an ineffective and useless quarantine,” he said of the British government’s efforts.

“The problem with this quarantine is, it’s not a quarantine. A quarantine is only effective if you kind of trap people or gather people at the point of entry.

"Here, they're asking people to fill in a nonexistent form on arrival at Heathrow or Gatwick, then get on to London Underground or the trains, buses, public transport, stop off in Tesco, maybe go to Halfords, before you reach your quarantine address.

“You give them your mobile phone number and in the unlikely event that anybody calls you over the next two weeks, you can answer the phone from a beach, from a golf course, from your office, from your local demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament and say: ‘Yes I’m quarantining away in perfect compliance.’”

Face masks

Mr O’Leary also said all passengers flying with Ryanair will be required to wear face masks.

Asked if he would be supplying them for free, Mr O’Leary said: “No, because we require you to have the face mask on you before you board the aircraft. But face masks will be readily available, that’s not going to be the challenge.”

Mr O’Leary said there would be no requirement for social distancing on flights. “We don’t believe . . . it is the most effective way. Where social distancing, 2m separation, isn’t possible, wear face masks.”

Mr O’Leary added that he has taken a 50 per cent pay cut this year and that pay cuts would be necessary across the company to secure jobs.

“Nobody will take a bigger pay cut than I will in Ryanair,” he said. “The serious point is, we’re asking our best paid people, our pilots, to take a 20 per cent pay cut, our least paid people, the junior flight attendants, to take a 5 per cent pay cut.

“What we’re saying to them [is], if you agree to those kind of pay cuts, we think we can eliminate almost all of the job losses. But if you don’t, we will need about 3,000 job losses.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter