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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 19 January 2022

Taoiseach: 'I want to see Ryanair and Aer Lingus operating in August'

The Taoiseach has said passengers are entitled to cash refunds.

Airline passengers have complained about difficulties in getting refunds.
Airline passengers have complained about difficulties in getting refunds.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he wants to see Ryanair and Aer Lingus back up and running in August. 

Varadkar was also asked about the Irish government co-signing 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.

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.

In the Dáil today, Varadkar said the “law has not changed”, adding that customers are still “entitled to a cash refund”. 

While he said he would have to check in with the Department of Transport on the policy, he said laws cannot be changed retrospectively.

“I’ve never come across anyone change consumer protection law retrospectively, it might be changed prospectively, but I don’t see how it can be change retrospectively, but I will get a briefing on that but there isn’t a government decision on it,” he said.

“However, we do have to be practical about this. I don’t want to see airlines fail, whether they’re publicly owned or privately owned.

“I want to see Ryanair and Aer Lingus operate sometime in the summer, sometime in August. And I wouldn’t like to be in a situation whereby we end up having to bail out airlines,” he added.

Rise TD Paul Murphy said the Taoiseach might not be aware that Ireland, along with 11 others wrote to the European Commission calling for the law to be changed, adding that the privatisation of airlines has been bad for workers in the industry.

“I think objectively the liberalisation of air travel in the world has been an extraordinary success,” said the Taoiseach, who pointed to Ryanair opening up travel for many people.

“It made it possible for everyday people to afford to fly to all parts of Europe. So I think liberalisation has been a huge success in terms of aviation,” he added.

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