Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
106. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on persons who booked flights to non-green list countries with airlines that will not refund them or offer credit for these flights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30659/20]
In cases where a flight has been booked as part of a package holiday with an Irish licensed travel agent and the country has been moved from the green to red list, the consumer can seek a refund under the EU Package Travel Directive 2302 due to "unavoidable or extraordinary circumstances." That should be sought from the travel agent, in the first instance. Such a refund must be made within 14 days. Where a flight has been booked directly with an airline, the relevant legal protections are different and fall under EU Regulation 261, which covers the rights of airline passengers in instances of flight cancellations. Under that Regulation, an airline has 7 days to make a cash refund to its customers when it cancels a flight. 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, irrespective of the circumstances.
Evidently, 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 for countries that are not on the 'Green' list. I am mindful that the options put forward by airlines may not be workable for customers in all instances. Specifically on this matter, my colleague the Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton has raised concerns with the airlines in respect to consumer rights issues, with calls for the airlines to offer fair and reasonable alternatives to passengers who wish not to travel at this time. Unfortunately, the Deputy will appreciate that there is no mechanism to compel airlines to cancel planned flights or to provide refunds or specific alternatives to refunds when there is no legal requirement to do so.