Ryanair is facing renewed criticism after boss Michael O’Leary admitted that passenger refunds for cancelled flights could take up to six months.

The no-frills carrier previously said on its website that cash refunds may take a year to be processed.

The chief executive told the BBC the airline was struggling to process a backlog of 25 million refunds with reduced staff at a time when most flights are grounded due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, O’Leary pledged: “If you want a cash refund, you will receive a cash refund.”

He was quoted as Ryanair announced 3,000 job cuts with a warning that it could take two years for a full recovery for the aviation industry.

Cost-cutting could involve closing some UK regional bases, O’Leary revealed, without naming those at risk.

His comments over refunds drew a rebuke from Which? travel editor Rory Boland, who said: “Ryanair is causing chaos by taking months to issue refunds to passengers and businesses that desperately need their money back.

“It has made clear that it does not support state aid measures and has the cash reserves to manage the crisis – if so, it must ensure it is refunding passengers without delay.

“The aviation regulator must start taking action against any airlines breaking the law around refunds, to ensure that waits of six months or more for a refund do not become the new normal.”

Litigation lawyer Jonathan Compton, a partner at law firm DMH Stallard, took issue with the idea that ticket refunds could be delayed.

“Where a flight is cancelled, the legal position is clear, the airline must provide a full refund within seven working days,” he told the BBC.

“Regulators need to get more active here. The relevant regulator is the Civil Aviation Authority. The CAA must start instructing airlines to start making refunds, no ifs or buts, and it needs to do this now.”

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