Bank of Ireland says it was wrong to seek refund for Ryanair passenger who requested it

Ursula Barry’s ‘chargeback’ request backfired when Ryanair refused to let her check in

Ryanair: the airline says chargebacks were incorrectly given, as flights went ahead. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ryanair: the airline says chargebacks were incorrectly given, as flights went ahead. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Bank of Ireland has admitted it wrongly started a refund process against Ryanair in connection with a return flight to Portugal that a customer could not take because of Covid-19 restrictions in force last year.

It emerged earlier this week that the airline was blocking passengers from checking in for flights if they had previously sought refunds from their banks or credit-card providers for flights that departed when public-health travel restrictions prohibited inessential international travel.

Ursula Barry was one of hundreds of customers of the airline who could not check in for a Ryanair flight she had paid for because she had previously sought a so-called chargeback from her bank after failing to get a refund from the airline.

A chargeback is a reversal of a transaction on a credit or debit card, usually one that is disputed, and Bank of Ireland started the process.

Bank of Ireland started the chargeback process in error. Because the flight had taken off, Ryanair was correct under EU law when it said that no refund was due even though Barry was not able to board the plane

Barry had been due to fly to Portugal for a family wedding in September 2020. The wedding was cancelled because of public-health restrictions in place at the time, but the flight went ahead.

Given the Covid-19 restrictions, Barry believed she was entitled to a refund. Having had no success with the airline, she contacted her credit-card provider to see if it could process a chargeback instead.

It began the process, and although the refund Barry thought she was due never reached her account, the bank did seek to reverse the transaction with Ryanair.

When Barry tried to check in for a Dublin-bound flight from Faro earlier this month, Ryanair barred her from checking in until she repaid the €210.95 refund that Bank of Ireland had sought on her behalf for the earlier flight.

Barry was not the only person in her family affected by the Ryanair policy. Her son was travelling by Ryanair to England last week, and the same thing happened to him. He was forced to pay the airline €279.95 for a flight he had not taken for the same family wedding last September.

Ryanair confirms it barred Barry from checking in until she returned the money she had sought as a refund. It says the restriction applies only to customers who had bought “nonrefundable tickets on Ryanair flights which operated as scheduled during Covid-19 but who chose not to travel and then unlawfully processed chargebacks via their credit-card company”.

‘We should not have instigated the chargeback without receiving proof that a flight had been cancelled,’ says Bank of Ireland. ‘This was an error on our side’

The airline insists it has acted entirely appropriately. “The many millions of Ryanair customers whose flights were cancelled during the Covid-19 pandemic and who applied directly to Ryanair for refunds, which they received directly from Ryanair, will be completely unaffected by these measures,” says a spokeswoman.

She adds that the only people who would be affected would be “a tiny minority” of its passengers, putting the number at fewer than 850.

It has since emerged that Bank of Ireland started the chargeback process in error. Because the flight had taken off, Ryanair was correct under EU law when it said that no refund was due even though Barry – and other passengers – were not able to board the plane.

Refunds are a legal obligation only if an airline does not deliver the service it was contracted to provide. “We should not have instigated the chargeback in this scenario without receiving the requested proof that a flight had been cancelled,” says Bank of Ireland. “This was an error on our side, but in the midst of the pandemic we were making a best effort to reclaim the funds for a customer.”

A spokeman for the bank adds, “We didn’t handle this matter appropriately, and we have contacted the customer to rectify things.”