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Ireland signs letter to European Commission calling for airlines to be allowed refund passengers with vouchers

A joint letter has called on the commission to temporarily change the law around airline refunds.

Image: Shutterstock/Pazyuk

THE IRISH GOVERNMENT has co-signed a letter with a number of EU countries asking for the European Commission to change the rules on how airline passengers can be refunded for cancelled flights.

The letter, which has been signed by 13 member states, calls for the commission to temporarily allow airlines to issue vouchers instead of refunds to passengers whose flights have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under EU Regulation 261/2014, airlines must reimburse passengers whose flights are cancelled the choice of a refund or a re-routing within seven days.

But the member states – Ireland, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, France, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal – said current rules place airlines in a difficult situation, particularly as many are facing financial difficulties.

“When the wording of the regulation was conceived, the current global crisis and its impact on air travel could not have been foreseen,” the letter reads.

“The goal shared by the European Union and its member states must now be to preserve the structure of the European air traffic market beyond the current crisis, while considering the interests and necessary protection of passengers.”

It also said that a temporary change to the rule would solve current cash flow constraints of airlines, while preserving the competitiveness of European aviation.

The joint letter stated that the temporary use of vouchers would be acceptable for consumers if key principles, such as transparency, a common length of voucher validity, maximum flexibility of use and a right to reimbursement at the end of the validity period in the event of non-use, were adhered to.

“As consumers are offered vouchers with a long-term validity, it is crucial to discuss ways to protect voucher owners against the risk of bankruptcy of the airlines that issued those vouchers,” it added.

“We are ready to explore this on a European level and call upon the Commission to take this aspect into account.”

The letter follows complaints from customers that Ryanair and Aer Lingus had joined a number of other airlines across the continent in primarily offering vouchers to those whose flights had been cancelled.

Passengers were told they would have to wait until the Covid-19 pandemic had passed before applications for refunds would be considered. 

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