Ryanair has warned some passengers may have to wait until the coronavirus pandemic has passed before they can claim cash refunds.
In the latest update to its refund policy, the low-cost carrier said it would offer vouchers and free changes of flight in the short-term.
Vouchers can, eventually, be exchanged for cash, but customers will have to wait a year.
Passengers can still claim cash refunds, Ryanair said, but they will be issued “in due course, once this unprecedented crisis is over”.
The Irish airline explained it had been inundated with refund claims.
“The processing time for cash refunds is taking far longer than normal as we are processing over 1,000 times the normal volume of cancellations,” the carrier said in a statement.
“We also have 75 per cent fewer staff available to process refunds due to social distancing restrictions.
“Ryanair is offering vouchers and free moves as these are automated and give customers an immediate alternative.”
Ryanair said passengers will be able to exchange vouchers for cash after a 12- month period.
“Unfortunately, cash refunds cannot be automated.
“Customers who choose a voucher, but do not redeem it within 12 months may still apply for and obtain a refund after this period.”
Consumer watchdog Which? was not impressed by the latest changes.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “This latest shift in Ryanair’s refund policy shows blatant disregard for the many customers who have been strung along by the airline while they desperately try to get their money back.
“Ryanair’s repeated attempts to push vouchers on customers who have been clear that they want the refund they are legally entitled to are completely unacceptable.
“It is time for the CAA to get tough with the many airlines openly flouting the law and those playing fast and loose with the rules.
“The government must set out how it intends to support airlines so they can meet their legal obligations and refund their passengers.”