Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Transport, Darren O’Rourke TD, today called on Minister Eamon Ryan to address the plight of the travel agency industry who have lost 95% of their business this year but have not received any additional assistance from the government.
The Meath East TD’s comments come as travel agents told the Oireachtas Transport Committee this morning that airlines still owe travel agents and customers at least €30 million in flight refunds.
Speaking today, Teachta O’Rourke said;
“Approximately 3,500 people are employed in the travel agency sector and with the collapse of international travel, business has been decimated this year.
“The travel industry is unique, as they cannot close their doors when business is down as they need to be there to refund customers, but all their overhead costs remain.
“Many are small family-owned businesses who are trying their best to stay afloat until this pandemic subsides.
“I have been in contact with some travel agents who have had to re-mortgage their family homes to try and keep their business from collapsing.
“What was very surprising to hear today at the Committee was the revelation that airlines owe travel agents between €25 million and €30 million in refunds.
“This is putting huge pressure on travel agents, as they cannot refund this money to their customers if the airlines do not refund it to them. Of course many more customers are dealing with airlines directly, so the outstanding flight refunds owed to customers is likely far in excess of €30 million.
“While I appreciate airlines are facing their own difficulties, we are seven months on from the imposition of travel restrictions in March, so airlines have had ample time to process refunds.
“Airport testing was also raised as an avenue to re-opening some sections of foreign travel and helping the travel sector, but the lack of progress in this area by Minister Ryan is now another blockage the travel industry cannot afford.
“We have repeatedly called for airport testing to be introduced, in line with the new EU traffic light system, and Minister Ryan must act on this immediately.”