A row between Ryanair and Which? has been sparked over whether the airline is offering package holidays.
A new poll by the consumer group claimed only half of Ryanair and Teletext customers on packages who had a holiday cancelled due to the pandemic in the last year would book with them again.
Ryanair denied that these are package holidays, and slammed the study as “fake news”.
Which? said it asked more than 4,000 people who had a package that was unable to go ahead between March 2020 and February 2021 to establish whether they would book with the same company again in the future and why.
Overall, 70% said they were likely to book with the same company again in the future.
But differences emerged between companies that had made an effort to treat customers well during the pandemic and those that didn’t.
Almost two thirds (63%) of Ryanair’s ‘package holiday’ customers who said they wouldn’t book with the company again said that it was because they no longer trust the company, while more than three quarters of Love Holidays’ customers (77%) said the same.
Many of the complaints about the two companies focused on problems with securing refunds, with customers complaining of long waits, partial refunds, and a lack of sympathy or understanding from the companies when trying to get their money back.
In contrast, a high percentage of customers from firms such as Hays Travel (85%), Audley Travel (82%), Jet2 (82%) Saga (82%), Tui (78%), Kuoni (77%) and Riviera Travel (77%) said they were likely to book with the same company again.
More than eight in ten customers of Audley Travel, Hays Travel, Jet2 Holidays and Saga who had a package holiday they were unable to go on said they would be likely to book with the company again.
But Which? said only half of Ryanair and Teletext Holidays customers surveyed said they were likely to book a package holiday with the same company again.
This is the first time it has reported complaints from customers who have booked a flight and a hotel together from the no-frills carrier.
Which? said it believed Ryanair is selling packages under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Regulations 2018. Under the regulations, customers who have booked a package holiday have more rights than those who just booked a flight.
In response, the airline said: “This is yet more ‘fake news’ from Which?.
“Ryanair does not market or sell package holidays and if misguided or mythical Which? survey participants claim that they will not book non-existent packages with us then this devastating news will not cost us a penny since we don’t sell any package holidays to Which?’s mythical or deluded survey participants.”
Teletext Holidays did not respond to a request from Which? for comment.
A Love Holidays spokesperson said it had refunded £240 million to its customers during the pandemic and that it has since made new investments in customer service and technology.
They added: “We have met, and continue to meet, our obligations under the CMA undertakings. Our refund process has also become significantly more efficient which will continue to give our customers peace of mind long after the pandemic recedes.”
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “With international travel still fraught with potential risks that could leave holidaymakers unable to travel as planned, trusting that a company will refund you if things go wrong will be vital to encouraging customers to book in the near future.
“A considerable number of companies do not seem to have learned lessons from last summer’s disruption though, and continue to offer holidaymakers limited financial protection if their holiday is disrupted by changing travel restrictions or being told to self-isolate.
“It’s important that travellers do their research before booking a holiday while coronavirus remains a risk, to check whether their holiday provider will leave them out of pocket if they cannot travel when the time comes.”