Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Ceisteanna (81, 91, 97, 121, 141)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

81. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the steps being taken to liaise with the airline industry to ensure that consumers who have been unable to make scheduled flights due to the current travel restrictions are being prioritised and dealt with in a fair and just manner via airlines internal complaints and refund application facilities in view of the fact many have incurred significant personal losses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13725/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

91. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the financial protections in place for those who have flights booked for outgoing flights to Spain while the current guidance is that no non-essential travel is to be undertaken; if persons can claim a refund under EU directives; if the travel provider has a duty to refund or voucher the cost of flights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13863/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

97. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the result of requests made to request airlines to refund families that cannot travel even though flights may be operating. [13953/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

121. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason airlines, such as an airline (details supplied), are permitted to continue to sell airline tickets and run flights without refunding passengers when non–essential travel is advised against; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14281/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

141. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that airline companies are refusing to refund fares to persons who cancel their holidays abroad in line with the advice of the Government not to travel unnecessarily abroad in 2020; the action he will take to ensure persons are not at the loss of the airline fares paid in good faith, either by direct refund by the Government or by way of discussions with the airlines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14586/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

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.