Seanad debates

Friday, 16 October 2020

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

10:30 am

Micheál Carrigy (Fine Gael)

I wish to raise the issue of the continued problems being experienced by travel agents in accessing flight refunds from Ryanair, a company that has been particularly critical of the Government in recent days. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, travel agents have submitted thousands of claims to Ryanair in order to refund their customers whose flight bookings were affected. To date, travel agents are owed approximately €20 million in refunds from Ryanair. Senator Dolan and I spoke to my local travel agent, Kane Travel in Longford, about the issue. It should be noted that funds held by licensed travel agents are guaranteed by the State in case of insolvency, which offers further protection to customers in the event that the agent or operator becomes insolvent or goes out of business.

Mr. Pat Dawson of the Irish Travel Agents Association, ITAA, stated that travel agents are doing their best to secure refunds for customers as quickly as possible. He stated that customer protection is travel agents' top priority and that the issue continues to affect high street agents as well as online travel campaigns. He pointed out that as Ryanair continues to refuse to deal with ITAA members, travel agencies have reached an impasse when it comes to securing flight refunds for their customers. This is not acceptable. Agents have been working solidly throughout the pandemic to assist customers with bookings. The companies simply could not close down even though they were effectively blocked from claiming refunds. Instead, they have remained open to service customers with cancellations, refunds and rebooking holidays. They are not using the current situation as an excuse to avoid refunding customers. They respect and value their customers.

I call on the Commission for Aviation Regulation and the Department of Transport to work with the ITAA to secure refunds for hard-pressed customers as quickly as possible. We need legislation to be implemented such that any vouchers issued to customers can be used by the travel agent and sold on to another customer should the person wish to receive the funding back. More than 3,000 jobs in the industry have been affected. It is time to protect travel agents in order to protect their customers.

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