Huge increase in complaints about airline cancellations in Northern Ireland
The Consumer Council has revealed a significant increase in the number of complaints about airlines it has received during the coronavirus pandemic. This comes as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Kelly Tolhurst, and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) prepare to face the Westminster Select Committee on Transport to explain the Government’s policy on airline refunds on Wednesday 20 May.
Richard Williams, Head of Transport Policy at The Consumer Council, said: “Between 1 March and 13 May 2020 we received 615 contacts regarding airlines. This is a 369% increase compared to the same period last year. Of these, 475 were in relation to difficulties in obtaining refunds for cancelled flights. In this period, The Consumer Council has managed to get airlines to return over £100k in refunds to consumers affected by cancelled flights.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented crisis for both the aviation industry and for airline passengers. Whilst airlines are facing an uncertain future, we are seeing large numbers of consumers worried about losing money, as airlines struggle to fulfil their legal obligation to provide refunds. On 13 May, the EU reiterated that consumers must get the cash refund they are entitled to and we welcome that the CAA is to investigate how well airlines are doing in refunding customers for cancelled flights.
“Since this crisis began we have been urging the CAA to explore, with the Government, all options that will balance the rights of airline passengers with the financial pressure on the airline industry. Last week the EU issued new recommendations about airline vouchers that aims to achieve this balance. This recommends that vouchers should guarantee a cash refund if unused after 12 months or if the airline goes bust. The Consumer Council believe that with these guarantees, vouchers would be more attractive to many consumers and could ease the financial pressure on airlines. However, the bottom line of a cash refund must remain an option for those consumers that need it.”
Richard added: “If you are having difficulty obtaining a refund from your airline, call us on Freephone 0800 121 6022 or email [email protected]. We have also launched a dedicated webpage to help with COVID-19 transport and general consumer issues at www.consumercouncil.org.uk/coronavirus."