Ryanair owns tens of millions of refunds for cancelled flights despite distributing vouchers or cash refunds worth €300 million to date.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair chief executive, insisted today: “If you want a cash refund, you can have a cash refund, but you will have to be patient.

“We’re trying to process 25 million to 30 million over a couple of months.”

He revealed the carrier had processed cash refunds to consumers or issued vouchers to the value of €300 million. But he said: “We’re coping with a backlog. It’s going to take some weeks and months to eliminate.

“The €300 million is about one quarter of the backlog for March, April and May. In a normal month we refund around 10,000 tickets.

“Three-quarters of the staff who process refunds can’t come into the office [in Dublin]. We hope to have staff in Dublin return to full numbers in June.

He suggested: “As we move through the summer and we get back to flying in July we can handle more cash refunds.”

But O’Leary added: “We can’t issue refunds until we get notice from the customer. If individual customers want a refund, they have to fill in an online form.”

He insisted: “We’re not trying to deny you a refund. Please be patient. We can automate vouchers but we can’t automate cash refunds.

“We request every customer who wants a refund to inform us where they want the refund to go.”

He declined to say how many cash refunds had been paid or how many vouchers distributed, saying only: “There are a lot more vouchers than refunds.”

O’Leary was speaking as Ryanair reported a full-year profit of just over €1 billion for the 12 months to March, up from €885 million the previous year despite the onset of the Covid-19 crisis.

The carrier reported it had €4.1 billion in cash available and had cut its monthly “cash burn” to €40 million to €60 million a week “including refunds”.

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