Aviation

Airline CEO slams OTAs over dodgy refund practices

Online travel agencies (OTAs) using ‘screen scraping’ are preventing passengers from receiving refunds from cancelled flights, according to the boss of Ryanair.

The airline has continued its stance on insisting travellers and agents book direct, this time citing difficulties in providing refunds to those who have booked through an OTA.

In a video posted to YouTube earlier this month, Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson said that while the airline is making “great progress” in processing refunds for almost 30 million passengers, it was having trouble contacting guests who booked through a third party.

“Customers who booked direct through Ryanair.com or through the Ryanair app… will have already received a voucher, a flight change or a cash refund,” Wilson said.

“Unfortunately, it has been a different experience for those customers who didn’t book directly with Ryanair but booked through screen scraper websites, sometimes inadvertently.

“Many of you have been contacting Ryanair customer care team looking for help with the booking you made through websites like Kiwi or On the Beach but none of these screen scrapers have a licence or permission to sell Ryanair flights.”

A ‘screen scraper’ is an OTA that uses screen scraping software to imitate copy from a website to display on their own so they can appear as authorised sellers.

However, according to Wilson, they often neglect to share customer details with airlines such as email addresses, payment details and postal addresses. This makes it difficult for the airline to contact passengers about their booking or refund them directly.

“They substitute your email address with a fake email and credit card details you gave them with a fake virtual credit card that is not yours,” he said.

“The reason screen scrapers go to all this trouble to hide your email from Ryan air with a fake one is because they may have added extra charges over and above the fares which they don’t want you to know or to prevent you from adding Ryanair’s ancillary products without paying a huge screen scraper mark-up.

“Or indeed just as an excuse to charge you for processing any refunds that might be due to you.”

To combat this, the airline has created a new Customer Verification Form which will allow customers to request a refund directly.

This comes as the airline said it will shut its base at Frankfurt Hahn airport after German pilots refused to accept pay cuts, BBC News reported.

The airline’s UK pilots have accepted pay cuts to reduce job losses.

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