Frustrated airline passengers left with 'little option' but to go to court for refunds

Frustrated airline passengers will be left with "little option" but to pursue refunds through the courts, consumer advocates warn.

Frustrated airline passengers will be left with "little option" but to pursue refunds through the courts, consumer advocates warn.

Despite the intervention of the European Commission -EC- in recent days, many airline passengers are still being met with silence and offers for vouchers instead of cash refunds.

On Wednesday, the EC ruled airlines must continue to offer customers the option of a cash refund in exchange for cancelled flights. More than a dozen countries, including Ireland, asked for the law guaranteeing refunds to be suspended.

However, consumers are still struggling to get refunds, according to consumer advocates.

Dermott Jewell of the Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI) said airlines have made refunds "exceptionally difficult to claim".

"Contact with them is very challenging with long waiting times on the phone often resulting in little or no progress. Online engagement takes days before a response is made and, again, often with little realistic assistance except with the focus on accepting vouchers," Mr Jewell said.

The consumer advocate said there are even many instances of customers who have accepted vouchers "waiting in excess of seven weeks without any response, update or voucher".

"There is little option to consumers but to seek the services of the Small Claims Court under these circumstances," he said.

Aer Lingus said it is giving customers the option of a voucher "to the full value of their flight plus 10%" between now and June 30 whether their flight has been cancelled or not.

It also said it is honouring refunds for customers who want one.

However, the airline has said it is "processing an unprecedented level of refund and voucher applications" and the seven-day turnaround mandated under EU law is proving "challenging".

Meanwhile, Ryanair, which did not respond to a request for comment, has cut more than 250 jobs at its offices in Dublin, Stansted, Madrid and Wroclaw through a combination of contracts ending, resignations and redundancies. This is due to the "substantial decline in traffic" it will carry in 2020. Ryanair has operated just 1% of its normal schedule for April, May and June.

Further job losses and pay cuts are expected to be announced before the end of May, the airline said.

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