March 12, 2021
Minister Ryan needs to take his head out of the clouds on ghost flight problem – Darren O’Rourke TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Darren O’Rourke TD, has said a lack of action from Minister Eamon Ryan could result in people losing money on flights they postponed from last year.

Teachta O’Rourke’s comments come as replies from the Minister for Transport to his Parliamentary Questions show the Minister is doing nothing to address the problem.

The Meath East TD said:

“This month marks one year since the introduction of international travel restrictions here due to Covid-19.

“As a result of these restrictions, most people took the decision to postpone their holidays until 2021, with the hope that the pandemic would have subsided, and they could travel abroad.

“However, this is not yet the case, and so the Government must move to ensure these consumers are protected.

“People should not be financially punished for taking the responsible decision to postpone their travel and heed the public health advice all year.

“While consumers are protected if their flights are cancelled, they are at the mercy of the airlines if the flights are still going ahead, but they cannot travel.

“Last year some airlines operated ‘ghost flights’ with little or no passengers, which meant ticket holders lost their refund protection as the flight left, but they were not on it.

“The Irish Travel Agents’ Association said at one stage people were losing €800,000 a day on flights and holidays they could not go on due to the policy against non-essential travel.

“This cannot be allowed happen again. Ghost flights cannot be used as a loophole for refunding passengers.

“I put these issues to Minister Ryan this week, but his replies show at best an unawareness of the problem or at worst a complete apathy towards it.

“I asked if the Minister would introduce extra protections for people with postponed flights, but he provided no answers whatsoever.

“The ITAA have said 400,000 people postposed holidays into 2021, so the Minister needs to take his head out of the clouds and address this urgent issue.

“If airlines refuse to offer refunds or free rescheduling during the ongoing travel restrictions, the Government must step in to ensure consumers are protected.”

CRÍOCH/ENDS

Note to Editor:

Parliamentary Question response below:

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 10/03/2021
Question Number(s)244,207 Question Reference(s): 12907/21, 12518/21
Department: Transport
Asked by: Darren O’Rourke T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

* To ask the Minister for Transport if he plans to put legislative protections in place for those persons who postponed flights from 2020 into 2021 but still may not be able or want to travel in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Darren O’Rourke T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 10 March, 2021.

* To ask the Minister for Transport if consumers who have flights booked during the period of level 5 restrictions, for example, those with postponed flights from 2020, are entitled to a refund if they cannot travel during level 5 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Darren O’Rourke T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 10 March, 2021.
REPLY

Consumer rights for overseas travel are protected under EU law, which of course applies in Ireland.  Air passenger rights are protected by Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004, which covers the rights of airlines passengers in instances of flight cancellations.  It provides that where a flight is cancelled then the consumer must receive a refund within seven days.  The EU Package Travel Directive provides a separate suite of consumer protections for people who make bookings through a licenced travel agent or tour operator.   The customers of licenced travel agents and tour operators are entitled to refund within two weeks should they or their holiday provider cancel the booking.
If any individuals are unclear about their rights, the Commission for Aviation Regulation has a dedicated web site for consumers www.flightrights.ie.

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