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Rise in complaints to the Commission for Aviation Regulation over airline refunds

07/05/2020

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Ireland

The Commission for Aviation Regulation ("CAR") regulates certain aspects of the aviation and travel trade sectors in Ireland. CAR has a significant consumer protection role. It is the national enforcement body tasked with the monitoring and regulation of EU legislation covering Air Passengers Rights.
 
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of flights travelling out of Ireland have been cancelled.

On 23 April 2020, CAR issued a guidance note in respect of Regulation EC 261/2004. In accordance with this Regulation, passengers are entitled to seek a refund of the price paid for the ticket when their flight is cancelled. Airlines are however entitled to offer vouchers to passengers. Passengers can choose to accept a voucher but are under no obligation to do so. This EU Regulation requires an airline to pay a refund within 7 days from when the refund option is chosen.

If a passenger has opted for but does not receive a refund, the passenger can submit a complaint directly to the airline. If the passenger does not receive a satisfactory response from the airline, or indeed receives no response within 6 weeks of making the complaint, the matter can be escalated to CAR. This is only if the flight was meant to depart from Ireland.

CAR has seen a significant rise in complaints over the refusal of several airlines to offer refunds for cancelled flights in a timely fashion. During this pandemic, CAR have repeated that people whose flights have been cancelled due to Covid-19 are entitled to refunds.

Despite Regulation EC 261/2004, it appears that most major airlines operating in the EU are offering vouchers in the first instance, and that passengers who hold out for refunds are not being given any indication if and when such refunds will be processed. In addition, several European countries, including Germany and France, are seeking to change the rules to allow vouchers instead of refunds, as they fear airlines based in their countries will collapse if forced to pay out refunds. In Ireland, the  government has been urged to resist airlines lobbying to have the rules changed on refunds for passengers whose flights have been cancelled.

Written by Maeve McNally. 

Learn more abour our Public and Regulatory Team.
 

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