Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
850. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will instruct an airline (details supplied) to discharge its responsibilities to customers who booked flights with the airline which were subsequently cancelled due to Covid-19 and promptly provide refunds to those customers who want them and vouchers to those who are willing to accept them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10994/20]
856. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if guidance will be given to consumers regarding summer flights to European destinations as current guidelines advise against flying; if airlines will refund consumers for flights already booked but not cancelled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11022/20]
860. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the supports in place in circumstances in which an airline is insisting on travel as flights will be available but the family have medical concerns and do not wish to travel. [11029/20]
884. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to ensure that persons who had paid for airline travel and in circumstances in which it is necessary to cancel such travel due to Covid-19 restrictions and quarantine requirements, will have full refunds of the cost of tickets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11510/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 850, 856, 860 and 884 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.