Consumer Group Demands Penalty Against Airlines Refusing Covid-19 Refunds

Consumer advocates have demanded that “strong action” from regulators should be implemented against those airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways who refuse to issue refunds to customers who are complying with the new 4 Covid restrictions of England.

Full cash refunds will only be made if flights are cancelled by the airline, Virgin Atlantic has told customers. However the airline will allow rebooking of their flight fee-free on only two occasions until December 2022, or transfer the ticket to another person for those travellers who are hit by new tier 4 restrictions and follow the new stay-home orders in south-east England.

A similar policy that only allows customers to rebook for free or request a voucher to travel at a later date is being implemented by British Airways. “As always, if a customer’s flight is cancelled they are entitled to a full refund or a voucher,” the airline said.

Refunds are also being refused by Ryanair. The airline said that those customers who had booked tickets from the UK between 20 and 24 December will only be allowed to shift their booking fee-free to any date prior to March 15 unless EU governments cancel or ban the flights.

Strong repercussions by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should be implemented for those airlines who fail to offer full refunds, said the consumer rights group Which?

“The terms set down by the CMA are clear – it expects customers to be given the option of a refund when they can’t travel because of lockdown laws. While a few airlines continue to do the right thing by customers, despite facing financial difficulty, others continue to break the rules, and should face strong action from the regulator as a result,” said Rory Boland, travel editor of Which?

Full refunds for customers affected by the new tier 4 restrictions is being offered bon the other hand by the discount airline easyJet. The airline is also offering vouchers and fee-free rebooking to customers irrespective of whether fights have been cancelled or not.

By not offering full cash refunds to passengers for flights that such customers were not legally allowed to board due to Covid-19 lockdowns, whether the airlines had violated consumer rights would be investigated by it, the CMA had said last week.

Emails sating that the passengers expected a refund was suggested to be sent by customers to airlines by Boland. He also suggested that after the email, customers should complain to the CMA. Those customers who have been forced to accept a voucher could also reclaim refunds at a later date. 

“We understand the difficulties that Covid-19 and tier 4 restrictions pose to some of our customers. Where a customer is unable to travel for any reason, we offer as much choice and flexibility as possible,” Virgin said.

(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)

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