I propose to take Questions Nos. 81, 91, 97, 121 and 141 together.
As the Deputy is aware, current Government advice to people is to avoid all non-essential travel overseas, based on the advices of our public health experts. However, there are no flight restrictions in place in Ireland, and there have not been any at any stage since the Government first responded to the threat from Covid-19. This means that the operation of flights remains a commercial decision for airlines. People can still travel if they consider that it is essential to do so and so long as they comply with self-isolation requirements on their return.
As things stand in law, air passenger rights are protected by Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004, which covers the rights of passenger in instances of cancellations. However, if a flight goes ahead and a customer either cancels or does not use their ticket, they are not entitled to a refund under EU law. That said, I understand that the main Irish airlines are currently allowing customers who are booked to travel over the summer months to move their flights with zero change fee. Where flights are cancelled by the airlines, people are entitled to a full cash refund.
Clearly the existing consumer protections and legal obligations on airlines and the broader travel sector did not envisage the current circumstances of mass cancellations and stringent travel restrictions across the Globe. That has, not surprisingly, put the entire system under immense pressure and it is causing real difficulties for people and businesses. I am mindful that the options put forward by airlines may not be fair or workable for customers in all instances, and it is something that I will be raising with the industry at the first available opportunity. Clearly, if the industry is seeking to secure State financial support to help it through the current period - and I believe that is a likely recommendation from the Aviation Taskforce - then a commitment to fairness and clarity on consumer rights will have to be offered in return, at the very least.