Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic were rated the worst of the UK’s major airlines for delays in refunding passengers during the pandemic.
Which? says both airlines received ‘abysmally’ low scores for making customers wait months for their money back.
It also accuses Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic of providing poor customer service throughout the cancellation and refund process.
Both airlines received a customer satisfaction score of just 13% when respondents were asked to rate the service they received when applying for a refund.
Which? asked people about their experiences of getting their money back from the UK’s six major airlines after their flights were cancelled last year.
Of those surveyed, 84% of Virgin Atlantic passengers and 79% of Ryanair passengers were dissatisfied with the service they received.
But 26% of Ryanair passengers were satisfied with their refund offer, suggesting some people were happy with a voucher or waiting a bit longer to get their money back.
However, only 16% of Virgin Atlantic passengers said the same. The airline automatically issued vouchers instead of cash refunds when flights were cancelled.
A third of respondents whose flights were cancelled by the two airlines told Which? they waited more than three months for their refunds.
None of the Ryanair passengers surveyed received their refund within the legal time frame of seven days after the cancellation.
Jet2 received the highest rating with a satisfaction score of 76%. Some 83% of Jet2 passengers told Which? they received their refund within 28 days and 34% said they receied it within the legal time frame of seven days.
No Jet2 passengers reported waiting more than three months.
However, Which? pointed out that Jet2 ‘did not always proactively inform customers of their right to a cash refund’. Instead, customers were encouraged to rebook for another date. But customers told the publication that Jet2 processed refunds ‘without quibbling’ when they were requested.
Jet2 was also the only airline in the survey to be named a Which? Recommended Provider.
Tui received the second highest satisfaction score of 57%, followed by British Airways with 50%.
Which? said TUI’s approach at the beginning of the pandemic was ‘poor’. Customers were automatically issued with credit notes and forced to call an ‘overwhelmed’ phone line if they wanted a refund.
“But its performance improved after May when it introduced its online refund request form and began offering cash refunds as an option,” said Which?
Half of BA passengers in the survey told Which? they received their refund within seven days, which was better than any other airline in the survey, while eight in 10 (79%) were refunded within 28 days.
“However, passengers were also instructed to call an extremely busy phone line to request their refund after BA removed its online refund request form from its website. The service often played an automated message to customers before simply hanging up on them,” it added.
Easyjet was given a score of 45% as customers faced lengthy wait times on the phone to try and speak to someone about a refund. Only a third of customers were refunded within 28 days, with only 4% receiving their money back within seven days.
Which? recently revealed that BA is continuing to refuse refunds for passengers who can’t fly due to the UK lockdown, while Ryanair’s website suggests passengers booked onto flights that are still running will not be eligible for a refund.
The Competition & Markets Authority is investigating whether airlines are breaking the law by refusing to refund passengers who can’t lawfully fly due to government restrictions.
Which? Travel Editor Rory Boland said: “As the UK approaches the anniversary of the first nationwide lockdown, it’s vital that lessons are learned from the previous handling of refunds and cancellations.
“Airlines cannot be allowed to continue to behave in this way, so the CMA and CAA must be ready to act if any are found to still be breaking the law on refunds.”