Ryanair Just Banned Customers Who Claimed Credit Card Refunds for Flights Due to COVID-19 Restrictions

Ryanair claims these passengers could have traveled, but simply chose not to.

Using a credit card for travel purchases often offers consumers a great deal of assurances in case something doesn't go as planned, but there are limits to the refunds they can claim — at least without suffering some consequences. And for some travelers, the repercussions of their refunds come in the form of a ban from one of Europe's most popular budget airlines.

On Oct. 12, Ryanair put out a statement barring a list of travelers after they received credit card refunds for flights they did not take due to COVID-related lockdowns.

The ban impacts passengers who purchased nonrefundable Ryanair tickets at various points throughout the pandemic and were later unwilling or unable to travel due to government-imposed restrictions. The flights operated as scheduled, disqualifying these passengers from getting their money back, unlike customers on flights that were canceled by the carrier. Those passengers received refunds directly from the airline and will not be included in the list of prohibited travelers.

Fewer than 1,000 people are affected by the ban, Ryanair said in the statement, according to CNN. The airline explained that these passengers "chose not to travel and then unlawfully processed chargebacks via their credit card company."

A chargeback is when a consumer requests a refund from their credit card company for services not provided to them. The credit card company then removes that money from the merchant's bank.

For passengers who took this route to recoup their money, the Ryanair ban can be temporary. These travelers will be permitted to fly with the airline once they "settle their outstanding debt."

Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS maneuvers for take-off in Lisbon Humberto Delgado International Airport
Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images

MoneySavingExpert, a personal finance website in the United Kingdom, first wrote about the issue surrounding Ryanair and also reportedly spoke with three travelers affected by the ban.

These potential passengers had already booked new flights with Ryanair and said they were not notified of their banned status at the time of purchase. Essentially, in this situation, they would be barred from boarding the plane until they paid their debt — sometimes as much as hundreds of British pounds.

One traveler was allegedly notified only days before her upcoming trip, leaving her to either pay her debt or forfeit already paid for accommodations, car rentals, and more.

All three passengers who spoke with MoneySavingExpert had claimed refunds from American Express after Ryanair refused to process the refunds for the flights they did not take in 2020. According to the outlet, they were not offered vouchers or the option to rebook and chose not to fly due to Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice against nonessential travel to their destinations.

This is not the first time that Ryanair has dealt with issues around refunds. According to CNN, it was just last week that Britain's antitrust regulator dropped an investigation into whether Ryanair and British Airways had broken the law by refusing to refund customers for flights they weren't able to take during lockdowns. It determined that the law does not provide a clear right to a refund for passengers who were prevented from flying by travel restrictions.

Those passengers were, however, offered the option to rebook or obtain a voucher for future flights.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she's always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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