The competition watchdog is investigating whether British Airways and Ryanair have broken consumer law by failing to offer refunds for flights customers could not legally take.
The Competition and Markets Authority today opened enforcement cases into carriers and written to them detailing its concerns.
BA and Ryanair refused to give refunds to people that were lawfully unable to fly during periods of Covid lockdown across the UK, according to the CMA. BA offered vouchers or rebooking while Ryanair providing the option to rebook.
The CMA is concerned that the two airlines may have breached consumer law and left people unfairly out of pocket by failing to offer people their money back.
It is now seeking to resolve these concerns with the companies, which may include seeking refunds, “or other redress”, for affected customers.
The move comes after a probe into the airline sector was opened in December following reports that consumers were being denied refunds for flights that they could not legally take.
CMA chief exective Andrea Coscelli said: “While we understand that airlines have had a tough time during the pandemic, people should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law.
“Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances entirely outside of their control. We believe these people should have been offered their money back.”
BA and Ryanair now have the opportunity to respond to the CMA’s “detailed concerns”.
A BA spokesperson said: “During this unprecedented crisis we have issued well over 3 million refunds and helped millions of our customers change their travel dates or destinations and we’re grateful to them for their ongoing support.
“We continue to offer highly flexible booking policies at the same time as operating a vastly reduced schedule due to government-imposed travel restrictions, and we have acted lawfully at all times.
“It is incredible that the government is seeking to punish further an industry that is on its knees, after prohibiting airlines from meaningful flying for well over a year now.
“Any action taken against our industry will only serve to destabilise it, with potential consequences for jobs, business, connectivity and the UK economy.”
Ryanair told the CMA it repaid a small number of people having reviewed the specifics of their cases.