Written answers

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

Covid-19 Pandemic

Martin Browne (Tipperary, Sinn Fein)
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822. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the measures in place to support persons who have holidays booked but due to Covid-19 and travel advice from the Chief Medical Officer, will have to cancel their plans but are not eligible to refunds for the cost of flights under the European air passenger rights legislation in view of the fact the flights have not been cancelled (details supplied). [10617/20]

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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874. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the protections in place for air passengers who are unable to use their tickets due to travel restrictions in circumstances in which the flight is scheduled to depart; if airlines will be obliged to refund these passengers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11268/20]

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 822 and 874 together.

As things stand in law, air passenger rights are protected by Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004, which covers the rights of passenger in instances of cancellations and other scenarios, including long delays.  However, if a flight goes ahead and a customer either cancels or does not use their ticket, they are not entitled to a refund under EU law.  I understand, however, that the current practice of the two main Irish airlines serving the Irish market in instances where flights are not cancelled, and having regard to the Covid-19 travel restrictions, is to offer their customers the opportunity to rebook a flight for later in the year or to receive a voucher.  In some instances airlines are waiving charges on rebooking and offering additional incentives such as extra value on vouchers.

Clearly the existing consumer protections and legal obligations on airlines and the broader travel sector did not envisage the current circumstances of mass cancellations and stringent travel restrictions across the globe.  That has, not surprisingly, put the entire system under immense pressure and it is causing real difficulties for people and businesses. 

I am mindful that the options put forward by airlines may not be fair or workable for customers in all instances, and it is something that I have raised directly with the two main Irish airlines.  I have asked that they take a fresh look at their current offerings to customers, that they bring more clarity to the messaging around entitlements and information on refund timeframes, and that they show discretion in favour of customers whose circumstances clearly make it unreasonable to expect them to travel, even if flights go. In looking to the future recovery, seeking ways to rebuild consumer confidence will be integral to initiating and indeed sustaining any future recovery for all parts of the aviation sector including the airlines.

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