It’s a truth universally acknowledged – most families don’t want to fly before 7am. Waking up in the middle of the night, then travelling with wired toddlers or grumpy teenagers is not the best start to a holiday.
This is why we deliberately booked a Ryanair flight at 1pm on our recent short trip to Limoges, France. Four of our friends, located in various places around the UK, were joining us and managed to book onto the same flight.
Disrupted travel plans
Then came the dreaded flight time change emails. Our reasonably priced flight, scheduled at a reasonable hour, was changed to an entirely different departure time shortly after.
Emails landed in our respective inboxes titled: “We’re sorry the scheduled time of your flight has been changed”. Our flight had been moved an hour earlier. “Accept flight time change” it said in the body of the email, with a big yellow button to click to accept the moved flight.
An hour’s change didn’t make a significant difference, so the majority of our party made the mistake of “accepting” the change proposed by Ryanair.
Disrupted travel, again
Several days later, Ryanair sent another email with the same title: “We’re sorry the scheduled time of your flight has been changed”. This time the flight had been changed to 7.20am, more than five hours earlier than the original booking.
This caused all sorts of chaos among our travelling companions, who would no longer be able to do school runs, would miss their pre-paid train transfers, and would have to pay to change their car rental slots at the other end and so on.
Here’s the kicker: the airline will only give passengers a full refund if their flight is moved by more than five hours.
“You will be entitled to a full refund of all amounts you have paid to us in connection with that flight, if: we change the scheduled departure time by at least five hours; this is unacceptable to you; and. we cannot book you on an alternative flight which is acceptable to you,” states Ryanair’s refund policy.
In addition, the airline will not compensate you for disrupted travel plans before and after your departure.
If you keep accepting flight changes your flight can be moved further and further (within a five hour window of the accepted change) and you won’t get your money back.
A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “As there are no specific laws governing schedule changes, EU 261/04 does not provide in this regard. However, Ryanair offers passengers refunds for schedule changes over five hours.
“In the rare event that a flight is rescheduled more than once, the new flight time will be the one to be considered in the case of further schedule changes. Hence, as per Ryanair’s policy, refunds will be applicable only for schedule changes greater than five hours, referring to the latest changed time.”
Those of us who did not accept the initial flight change were offered refunds, those of us who did were not. The latter were offered other flight options – but there were no other flights for three days – an alternative was not an option. Members of our party rearranged their travel plans at significant cost. Disgruntled by the whole experience, we all flew out of a completely different airport with EasyJet, which, incidentally, despite recent news reports highlighting delays and cancellations, was reliable, and stuck to its schedule on both legs of the journey.
Do and don’ts of dealing with Ryanair flight changes
1. Don’t click the ‘accept’ box
If you get a “We’re sorry the scheduled time of your flight has been changed” email, take a note of the new flight time, and ignore the rest of the email. You will still have a flight if you don’t accept the changes, and by not accepting you’re less likely to be out of pocket if your flight moves again.
2. Book with PayPal or a credit card
Ryanair won’t give you a refund for a flight change under five hours, but your credit card company may do (check the terms of your contract before you book). Alternatively, book with PayPal, which will fight to have Ryanair refund your flights. Two people in our party were successfully awarded refunds through PayPal, after being repeatedly refused a refund by Ryanair directly.
3. Check third party terms
While there may be more attractive deals via a booking agent or third party booking site, be wary that changes to flight times cannot be quickly resolved. There may be no refund policy at all with a third party, however, in some cases you may be better protected in cases of disrupted travel.
4. Get a tax refund
If you are stuck and are unable to get a refund or change your flight, ask for vouchers/credit. If this is not an option, ask for a tax refund. This amount will differ depending on the destination you are flying to, but you are legally entitled to have this amount refunded to you. However, to dissuade you from doing so, Ryanair will likely charge you an administration fee to process this.
5. Choose a reliable airline
Bait and switch tactics are common when it comes to flight bookings, these involve luring in customers with cheap prices, only for them to increase later in the booking process. Extras also include paying to sit next to your family, checking baggage and so on. It’s often cheaper to buy a more expensive flight with few additional costs, a solid customer service record and more lenient terms and conditions of carriage.
6. Consider booking closer to your departure time
While this is risky, and could mean your flight is more expensive or could sell out, it does mean scheduled changes are less likely to happen. You could also delay booking transfers and car hire to avoid extra costs in the case of a flight change.