Ireland’s two major airlines are expected to announce large-scale cutbacks to their services as the industry reels from the onslaught of Covid-19.
With flights across the planet slashed amid a major drop in traveller confidence and a series of aggressive restrictions on travel put in place by governments in the face of the virus, Ryanair and Aer Lingus are set to cut their services still further in order to secure their long-term viability.
Airlines were put under further duress by the decision of Ursula von der Leyen to place a 30-day restriction on all non-essential travel to the EU from outside its borders.
Ryanair said that it expected to reduce its seat capacity by up to 80% across April and May on the back of travel restrictions of varying severity being put in place by a large number of European nations.
The airline had already made a number of cuts to its routes in recent days, with all flights to and from Poland pulled on Saturday in response to that country’s ban on foreign travel, while flights to Spain were reduced yesterday as instances of the virus there began to spiral out of control.
Aer Lingus was less forthcoming on how its services would be impacted in the immediate term.
However, International Airlines Group, which acquired Aer Lingus in September 2015, said it plans to reduce capacity across its various airlines by “at least 75% compared to the same period in 2019” throughout April and May.
Both airlines have announced they will forego all penalties ordinarily applied to customers moving the time of their flights for the duration of the crisis. However, refunds will not be forthcoming for travellers seeking to cancel flights outright.
While the cutbacks being applied by the airlines may leave consumers somewhat short-handed both in terms of cancelled services and in terms of options for those who might wish to have bookings refunded, the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland outlined what recourse is open to customers.
Generally, in terms of consumer relations, force majeure or ‘act of God’ incidents are used as a means for either side of a transaction to declare themselves free of obligations.
In general, said the ECC, Irish travellers based in Ireland should take their objections to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).
Package holiday legislation in Ireland, for example, allows for a full refund in the event of extraordinary circumstances occurring at a destination.
However, flights booked at an individual level are unlikely to see refunds, per the CCPC’s advice, while travel insurance is unlikely to pay out in circumstances attributable to Covid-19.
Irish persons stranded in foreign locales after their services have been cancelled are entitled to seek a refund and re-routing under EU regulations, while the usual obligations on airlines regarding assistance, free meals, and overnight accommodation still apply.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation is responsible for the enforcement of that regulation in Ireland