Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said the company has jumped from 10,000 refund requests each month to a 25 million backlog because of the widespread cancellations the pandemic generated. The Ryanair CEO insisted the company remains committed to giving people back their money if they do not want a voucher to use later on or to move their holidays to another date. But Mr O’Leary warned it could take Ryanair as much as six months to begin processing all the requests for refunds received in the first two months of the outbreak.
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Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr O’Leary said: “It’s going to take us many months to process these cash refunds. We would normally, in a month, process 10,000 refunds.
“Currently, we’re facing a backlog of 25 million refunds through cancellations in March, April and May. Those are not Ryanair’s fault, they were caused by the Government grounding our fleet.
“That’s fine, we’re not blaming Government but we have a backlog of 25 million refunds to process. Our staffing is reduced 25 percent of normal levels because of social distancing and people being banned from coming to the office.
“It will take us many months to eliminate this backlog. We’re working through the March refunds, that will certainly take us two or three months, then we move to the April refunds, then the May refunds. The May cancellations will take us four to six months at the moment to process.”
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Mr O’Leary added: “Nobody has to fight for a refund at Ryanair. If you want a cash refund, you will get it but it will take many weeks and sometimes months because of the backlog.”
The news of the delay in refunds comes after Ryanair confirmed they are looking to cut 3,000 jobs to counteract the losses it expects to suffer while planes remain grounded.
Mr O’Leary said he will be taking a 50 percent pay cut until March next year while announcing staff will also suffer as much as a 20 percent cut in wages.
Ryanair said in its statement: “Due to Continent-wide EU Government flight restrictions, Ryanair expects to operate less than 1 percent of its scheduled flying program in Apr, May & June 2020. Q1 traffic of less than 150,000 passengers will be 99.5 percent behind the Q1 budget of 42.4m passengers.
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“While some return to flight services is expected in the second (July-September) quarter, Ryanair expects to carry no more than 50 percent of its original traffic target of 44.6m in Q2.
As a direct result of the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis, the grounding of all flights from mid-March until at least July, and the distorted State Aid landscape in Europe, Ryanair now expects the recovery of passenger demand and pricing (to 2019 levels) will take at least two years, until summer 2022 at the earliest.
“The Ryanair Airlines will shortly notify their trade unions about its restructuring and job loss program, which will commence from July 2020.
“These plans will be subject to consultation but will affect all Ryanair Airlines, and may result in the loss of up to 3,000 mainly pilot and cabin crew jobs, unpaid leave, and pay cuts of up to 20 percent, and the closure of a number of aircraft bases across Europe until traffic recovers.
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“Job cuts and pay cuts will also be extended to Head Office and Back Office teams.
“Group CEO Michael O’Leary, whose pay was cut by 50 percent for April and May, has now agreed to extend this 50 percent pay cut for the remainder of the financial year to March 2021.”
The company also warned they do not expect passengers to return to 2019 levels until 2022 at the latest due to the technical difficulties of implementing social distancing on planes.
Mr O’Leary however confirmed his support for crews to take on the use of personal protective equipment such as face masks to help protect both themselves and customers.
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