Quarantine list headaches with Ryanair: TPG reader mistake story

Sep 20, 2020

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We’ve been asking to hear your travel success and mistake stories to both celebrate and help our TPG U.K. community — even if you’re not travelling as much right now.

This week, Ben emailed in to share his excitement at the thought of taking his first post-lockdown trip.

“After not being on a flight for six months due to COVID-19, Vienna (VIE) seemed like the perfect place to take a couple of days holiday and visit a friend. I booked some cheap flights with Ryanair and took advantage of some great Marriott hotel offers. 

It seemed low risk when booking: Austria has handled the virus well and Marriott was offering free cancellation. Ryanair also had a “Book with Confidence” policy, which promised: “This means you can change your flight time, date or even destination, giving you complete flexibility and peace of mind”.

Then the quarantine list changed.

Austria was added to the U.K. quarantine list on a Thursday, three days before my flight on Sunday. Not a problem, I thought. I got my hotel reservation cancelled on the Marriott app and joined the Ryanair Live Chat queue to change my flights to later in the year. This is when I was informed that you only have “complete confidence” if you change your flight more than seven days in advance.

This is mentioned in the full terms and conditions, but I didn’t realise this when I booked —  my fault, I know.

As I’m unable to isolate on return, I could either pay the £90 change fee or abandon the trip — I’ve done the latter. Unlike other airlines, EasyJet included, Ryanair does not allow you to change the dates if it is less than seven days before the flight, even if the FCO changes its advice for the destination you’re visiting. My flatmates were in an identical situation when Spain was added to the list and EasyJet gave them a voucher. 

While this is expected with Ryanair, I still believe it’s bad faith. I don’t believe it’s asking for much to waive the change fee to move flights (paying any fare difference) to a later date, especially if quarantine rules change last-minute for a specific destination. I can imagine how a family or large group could be placed in an unfortunate position of paying an extra £90 per person or risk taking the flights anyway.

If quarantine rules change abruptly, the Ryanair policy is basically, “Sorry, we haven’t cancelled the flight, tough luck”. This is unlike any other major European airlines, including EasyJet, which at least waives the change fee.

I wish I had booked with someone else!”

Related: All 17 countries and territories you can visit from England without quarantine on either end

This is an unfortunate trap for passengers trying to navigate the constantly changing travel restrictions, quarantine and advice across Europe right now. Where an airline cancels your flight, you are entitled to a full refund. However, don’t assume your flight will be cancelled just because government advice changes.

The seven-day rule with Ryanair is frustrating, especially as we have seen travel corridors change with just a few hour’s notice. If you are considering booking a flight to a country where the travel corridor could change, you may wish to book with another airline where you can have more confidence in its Book With Confidence policy.

Featured image by LittleIvan via Twenty20

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