'I kept saying they can’t shut the world down, but they did': Travel agent tells of impact on industry

'I kept saying they can’t shut the world down, but they did': Travel agent tells of impact on industry

The owner of a travel agency in Bray has told of the problems facing the industry as a result of Covid-19.

Linda Jones, proprietor of the Travel Boutique which employs five people, told RTÉ radio’s Today with Séan O’Rourke show that even when borders reopen it will be a long time before people feel confident enough to travel.

“I kept saying they can’t shut the world down, but they did.”

Ms Jones said “every single holiday is suddenly gone.”

Her agency has had to write off holidays in March, April, May and into the summer.

“People are looking for refunds, but all of our suppliers cannot give refunds, there is not enough liquidity.

“This is a pandemic, there were no laws written to take this into account.”

Ms Jones called on the government to ‘bail out’ the travel industry as it is in a unique situation.

“It is one of the hardest hit industries. No one has been looking at the impact on travel agents.”

The public is going to have to be very patient in their dealings with all travel agents, she said, adding the warning that it was unlikely that people would get the full amount they paid for a holiday refunded.

Meanwhile, Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune is reminding consumers of their right to a full refund or to change their flight, in the case of airlines cancelling flights.

Ms Clune said EU passenger rights guarantee that any passengers, who have their flights cancelled by the airline, are entitled to choose between a refund or changing their flight date.

“This is a worrying time for our citizens and many elements of our normal routines have been disrupted, including travel plans.

The travel restrictions and health and safety warnings must be adhered to and we should follow the guidelines issued by the Irish government and authorities to protect everyone’s well-being.

“However, in case of confusion, I want to remind air passengers that EU rules are clear on cancelled flights, whereby the airline must provide a clear choice between a refund, changing to a new flight at the earliest convenience or at a later date at the passenger’s convenience", said Ms Clune, a Member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport.

“In the context of the coronavirus outbreak and resulting travel restrictions and warnings, the EU Commission issued new guidelines on how passenger rights should be interpreted.

"But the rules for cancelled flights remain the same.

“Passengers who would prefer to have a refund instead of changing their cancelled flight to a later date can request the same from the airline.

"If they do not receive a satisfactory response, they can contact the national body responsible. In Ireland’s case, this is the Commission for Aviation Regulation.”

Ms Clune underlined that the coronavirus impact has caused enormous difficulties for the airline industry: “It is a very difficult time for the airline industry and it is understandable that there may be delays in terms of customer service, so we need to be patient in terms of customer service delays as many companies are dealing with this unprecedented situation with limited staffing.

Additional reporting by Digital Desk

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