Airlines must reroute or refund passengers


CONSUMER RIGHTS:WHILE THE travel plans of thousands of passengers who had flights cancelled yesterday are in disarray, this morning they can take some comfort from the fact that their consumer rights are intact.

Under European regulations, passengers whose flights have been cancelled must be given a choice between rerouting to their final destination or a full refund.

They will not, however, be entitled to any compensation as a result of cancellations as they are considered to have been as a result of an act of God.

If consumers choose to reroute instead of applying for a refund, airlines have to offer an alternative flight to the final destination at the earliest opportunity or at a later date of the intending passenger’s choice, subject to the availability of seats.

The airlines must also offer meals, refreshments and hotel accommodation where a stay of one or more nights is necessary.

If an airline offers a flight to an alternative airport they must bear the cost of transferring their passengers from that alternative airport to the one in their reservation or to another nearby destination agreed with the passenger.

While the legislation is clear, getting money out of some airlines may not be straightforward.

“In reality many airlines do not provide these things as a matter of course,” Caroline Curneen of the European Consumer Centre in Dublin told The Irish Times.

She advised anyone who has been affected by cancellations to keep all receipts for expenses incurred as a result and to submit a claim in writing, enclosing copies of all the receipts directly to the airline in question.

If the airline does not respond within 10 working days passengers should make a complaint to the Commission for Aviation Regulation.

She also said all passengers who have been negatively affected by the cancellations should be informed in writing of their rights.

The regulator will then raise the matter directly with the airline, and if it is satisfied that an infringement has occurred, it will consider a prosecution.

If intending passengers choose a refund instead of rerouting, the airline can immediately discontinue the provision of care.

However, if the journey no longer serves its intended purpose as a result of the cancellation of a connecting flight, you are also entitled to a free flight back to your original departure point, as well as the refund for the part of the journey already made.

In such a case, the air carrier may not decline the passenger’s right to care.

Aer Lingus and Ryanair’s telephone helplines struggled to cope with a massive volume of calls from concerned consumers yesterday.

Both airlines have advised passengers who are intending to travel today to visit their websites for updates of schedule changes and for information on how to rebook tickets and claim refunds.