RYANAIR has agreed to a refund for a school group from St Joseph’s in Tulla, whose planned Transition Year tour to Barcelona last April had to be called off because of the pandemic. While the airline insists that it was prepared, at all stages, to return the money which the students had paid through an operator called Saffron Travel, a dispute had arisen as to how the refund was to be made. The seat-pricing policy operated by Ryanair means that individual refunds – the method preferred by the airline – would have resulted in some students getting far less money back than the €200 each of them had paid. After intensive efforts on the part of Oireachtas members Deputy Cathal Crowe and Senator Timmy Dooley, a solution has been agreed. The total flight fare of €17,500 will now be paid to the school who will make an equal refund to each of the 80 affected students.
“This has been allowed to continue for far too long and these pupils and their parents have been left out of pocket for an unacceptable period of time,” said Deputy Crowe, who last week drove to the headquarters of the airline in Swords. “I’ve been in talks with Ryanair and the travel agent since this was first brought to my attention and this afternoon, I’ve spoken directly with Eddie Wilson about this issue. I’ve been assured now that the outstanding monies will be refunded directly to St Joseph’s Secondary School, which will then be able to divvy out the refunds to each pupil, once the necessary paperwork is completed.”
Explaining the background to the dispute over the nature of the refund, Deputy Crowe said: “… the dispute arose over the quest to have the refund issued in full as one bill to either the travel agent or the school, as opposed to the favoured route by Ryanair to issue individual refunds to each pupil. The problem with that option would be that each fare would have been different – so one pupil might only get refunded €50 of the more than €200 they paid, whereas others might even end up with more in their pockets if they were allocated a more expensive seat. I have been stressing this point repeatedly to top officials in Ryanair and thankfully, common sense has prevailed. I am so glad to see that this is the case and that there is a positive resolution in this long-running saga.”
With parents and the school battling for almost a year to ensure a fair refund system, the issue ramped up in recent weeks, particularly after Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary claimed that all refunds had been made. Following an RTÉ radio interview where Mr O’Leary said that everyone who had sought a refund since last March had received it, a number of travel agents and their representative body contradicted him. Since the pandemic, there has been a storm of controversy over the refunds issue, something that the parents, staff and students of St Joseph’s are now delighted to be leaving behind.
Local woman Jane Halloran Ryan was among the parents who attended a Zoom meeting on the issue last week where both Deputy Crowe and Senator Dooley urged them to work together as pressure was maintained on the airline.
“It was a great result to get on a Monday,” she said, welcoming news of the refund arrangement. “The St Joseph’s TY parents are really delighted with the outcome. We want to thank Cathal Crowe for his assistance and support, Timmy Dooley for his support and our principal, Juliet Coman for her efforts/ After nearly 12 months, we can finally put this matter to rest.”