Ryanair group chief executive Michael O'Leary has refuted past suggestions that the airline increased prices when refugees were attempting to flee war torn Ukraine.
In an interview on Countrywide on RTE Radio 1, he denied claims that refugees had been charged “exorbitant prices” .
“We followed up with the Polish authorities and found that they read about it on social media and in the Irish newspapers.
What happened was the refugees showed up on the first weekend most of the flights out of Poland were already fully sold. There was only one or two seats left and as is always the case they were quoted the highest fares."
Mr O’Leary says that every effort has been made by the airline to keep fares low for persons attempting to leave Ukraine.
"What we have done, working with the Ukrainian embassy since, is put in a guarantee of low fares. We have fares available at under €50 and under €30 one way. We have waived passport ID regulations for Ukrainians. We are taking cash payments instead of credit cards. And we are running humanitarian flights to our airports in Romania, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary which board at Ukraine.
"We have done everything it is possible to do to facilitate both refugees coming from Ukraine who want to fly to Ireland and many other points in the EU and also to support our Ukrainian passengers during the illegal invasion. "
Mr O’Leary said that the airline is unable to run special charter flights for refugees as they are in the summer schedule and are without spare aircraft.
He stresses they have “available seats at low fares” and that is the most important service the airline can provide.
“Ukraine was a big market for us. We want to look after them and their families at this time. But we did not and would not raise prices during a war or on people fleeing a war.
“We are taking humanitarian aid. We have now run about 24 flights back in to those countries where we are taking medical and food supplies free of charge in the whole of the aircraft.”
Mr O’Leary said that they could not offer free seats to refugees leaving Poland as “there is no way of separating” passengers.
He adds that Ireland has “played a blinder” in waiving passport requirements for fleeing Ukrainians.
“We have (also) waived them straight away as long as the country of arrival allows us to do that. We ignore the absence of photo ID and anything else.”
Last month the Polish ambassador to Ireland said Ryanair should offer free flights. In a letter to Mr O'Leary, the Polish ambassador Anna Sochanska said the Ukraine embassy has brought to her attention that the price of flights between Poland to Dublin have been "substantially increased".
Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko had previously criticised the airline for the cost of flights from countries neighbouring Ukraine, telling an Oireachtas committee that the pricing regime was "immoral". Ryanair denied these claims.