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Consumer Association of Ireland calls for 'small compensation fund' for holidaymakers who choose not to fly

People who booked flights in July could be left out of pocket if they cancel.

Image: LEAH FARRELL

THE CONSUMER ASSOCIATION of Ireland (CAI) has called for the government to create a compensation fund to reimburse holidaymakers who have cancelled flights on foot of government travel advice.

On Monday, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, reiterating official government advice on travel during the pandemic, urged people to consider cancelling holiday plans abroad despite the lifting of restrictions.

But this morning, Ryanair chief executive Eddie Wilson told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme that people who cancel flights will not be refunded. The airline will begin to resume around 90% of its routes from today after effectively grounding its fleet in March as a result of the pandemic.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, CAI Policy and Council Advisor Dermot Jewell said that consumers are now faced with a dilemma. He confirmed that holidaymakers are not entitled to refunds if they cancel their booking and could “be left seriously out of pocket”.

“Why? Because they’ve broken their side of the contract,” he said.

“The airline is delivering… but they’re breaking their side of the contract, just by not going, and they’re not entitled to any refund.”

He explained that the Department of Foreign Affairs is not restricting travel to other countries because of the pandemic.

“What we’ve had is a pleading from Dr Holohan, saying, ‘Really, you should really think about not going.’ But that does not constitute an official state [order] ‘Do not go’.”

“So in the absence of that, everything is normal,” Jewell said.

He said that without state intervention, holidaymakers who wish to follow government advice have two options. They can cancel their flights and lose all their money or, alternatively, they can try to “engage with the airline”, to see if they can reschedule their trip, which might also cost money.

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“In all honesty — and I have to say, I find it difficult to give this advice — but when you look at the lack of support from the state [for consumers] and the lack of advice, to lose a small amount of money by [rescheduling] your journey might be the better of the best of both worlds,” Jewell said.

“We’re just asking could the government not come up with some consideration or some form or support mechanism.”

This, he said, could take the form of some “small fund” to reimburse affected travellers.

“I know that it’s asking a lot, but… we’re inclined to feel that the consumer is the weak link at the end of a long chain of priority, and maybe it’s about time that some small fund was put in place,” he said.

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