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Covid travel: 'I'm not tempted by Ryanair's fabulous offers'

Airlines poor refund policies have "destroyed trust" and "made people wary of parting with money in return for travel which could be cancelled at any moment"

As a guilty aviatrix and confirmed travel-o-holic, my heart bleeds for airlines. This year has been pretty much hell for all of us, but for airlines and the tourist industry generally, it has been catastrophic. Ryanair's buy-one-get-one-free offer proves my point. They must be really desperate, and ditto all the other airlines.

I don't want them to fail. In my daydreams I want airliners to be electric or hydrogen-powered, or pushed along by angels so they are eco-friendly, but I don't want Ryanair or Easyjet to go bust. I want them back in the skies; I want to be in seat 10A listening to their terrible trumpet recording. I'm desperate for a weekend in Prague; London is yelling at me to get over there, and my heart is yearning for a glass of chilled white on the dockside in Porto.

But I'm not tempted by Ryanair's fabulous offers. Two-for-the-price-of-one? €5 to Lisbon? Free ticket changes? Suspiciously friendly airport staff? Bells, whistles, and free crisps? Nah, they can keep it. Why? Because flights are still constantly cancelled, and airlines are still playing wily beguily with refunds.

Wily beguilies are people who get trapped by their own craftiness; the term is obsolete but the concept is alive and kicking. The action of refusing to refund travellers for cancelled flights/hotels/holidays and instead insisting they accept useless, dodgy vouchers, is wily beguily: it's keeping money without providing the service.

I understand why they did it, the idea of keeping an airline afloat with the fleet forcibly grounded was a nightmare. Their instant reaction was to grab as much cash as they could. But it destroyed trust. It made people wary of parting with money in return for travel which could be cancelled at any moment. Vouchers don't allow you to re-book with another company; they don't allow you to console yourself with a staycation or a new sofa: no-one wants vouchers.

In plain language, it was a short-sighted response back in March and CEOs still haven't learned. BA are particularly guilty on this one, but I'm looking at other airlines too. A friend recently came over from London and although the outbound flight was fine, the return was cancelled a few days before departure, so he had to scramble for last-minute train tickets that cost €300, and he got a horrible voucher instead of his cash back.

I've got the money and the holiday time; my BFF has holiday time plus €300 in Ryanair vouchers; my retired neighbours are desperate to see their grandchildren... All of us are ok with masks, gel, distancing, quarantine, the online check-in palaver - but none of want to risk the cancellation/voucher nightmare. 

So, I reckon if airlines want me and my gang back in our low-cost seats, they need to schedule fewer flights, but guarantee to operate them - and guarantee to refund money instantly if a Certain Inconvenience makes travel impossible. Come on Ryanair, drop the wily beguilies! Even if you only schedule two flights a week, or only two flights a month... the day you guarantee them we'll be buying tickets like Covid never happened.

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