While a war of words wages between Ryanair and the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) over flight refunds, school students in Tulla have been left out of pocket by thousands of euro since last May.
As Ryanair and the ITAA issued claims and counter-claims in recent days over the airlines assertion that all refunds to customers have been made, in the midst of this, pupils from St Joseph’s are owed almost €18,000 after a block booking for a flight was made through a travel agent.
As the airline and the ITAA continued to bicker over the refund issue, Ryanair has said: “Ryanair has not dealt with travel agents for over 20 years and does not permit travel agents or other unauthorised 3rd parties to make bookings on Ryanair.com. Any such travel agent bookings are in breach of Ryanair’s terms and conditions. Many travel agents making these unauthorised bookings are invariably misleading customers by charging them hidden mark ups or add-ons, and in many cases they use fake passenger contact details and/or fake payment details.”
In response, the ITAA stated: “The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) have refuted a statement and comments made by Ryanair claiming that the airline has not dealt with travel agents for the past twenty years. The ITAA are once again asking Ryanair for honesty and transparency with regards to refunds, to resolve ongoing issues for consumers and travel agents alike.
Clare Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe says he is engaging with Ryanair, AIB and the Finance Minister with a view to finding a resolution to a long-running refund dispute involving the students.
80 pupils had paid up and were due to go on a school tour to Barcelona last April but unfortunately, the expedition was cancelled due to Covid-19.
All accommodation and other associated costs have been refunded but airfares booked with Ryanair via a third-party travel agent haven’t been reimbursed to date.
“The dispute here centres on who should be refunded and how. You have one argument that the travel agent should be issued the refund, which is in turn passed onto the students, and then the flipside is that it should be directly issued to the students themselves.
“The problem with an individual refund scheme is that technically, the air fares were different for each student – with each seat on the plane coming in at a different cost, as is standard practice. In this group tour scenario, though, the travel agent charged an average figure per pupil meaning equal costs were borne by each one so some might lose out in an individual refund scheme.
“Since the beginning, this dispute has moved through various phases; from Ryanair offering a full refund, to travel vouchers, to one suggestion that a cheque would be issued to each student.
“I have engaged extensively with the travel agent who is based in Co. Louth and specialises in school tours. I want to stress that they have been extremely helpful to both parents and I in trying to solve this fiasco and are doing their bit to help out too.
“I called to Ryanair headquarters in Swords to escalate the matter further. I will continue to liaise with the airline on this. I am also dealing with the Minister for Finance and AIB, as an AIB bank card was used in the purchase of the tickets.
“This isn’t small money – this dispute is centred around an outstanding refund of €17,500, which works out at about €200 apiece for each pupil. Some students will have come up with this money themselves from weekend jobs or saving their pocket money, while a lot of parents would have made huge sacrifices to foot this bill and have now seen their income reduced due to Covid.
“These people are central to this dispute and they are waiting with trepidation to hear what the outcome will be. I want to take this opportunity to assure them that I’m doing everything I can to reach a resolution on this as soon as possible,” Deputy Crowe added.