MPs call for airlines to hand travellers automatic refunds

MPs call for airlines to hand travellers automatic refunds for flight disruptions… or face heavy fines

  • A Commons report has called for refunds on cancelled flights to be automatic
  • It comes as fears of more disruption for air travel in the coming months mount
  • BA axed more than 3,000 flights in the past three weeks as it struggled due to pressures caused by the end of the pandemic

Airlines should be forced to give holidaymakers automatic refunds for travel disruption as part of a shake-up of passenger rights, MPs urge today.

A report by the Commons transport committee also calls for the industry regulator to be handed new powers to fine airlines which fail to pay compensation quickly for cancelled or delayed flights.

It comes amid fears of disruption for holidaymakers this summer as some carriers struggle to ramp up operations to meet surging demand following the pandemic.

A report by the Commons transport committee also calls for the industry regulator to be handed new powers to fine airlines which fail to pay compensation quickly for cancelled or delayed flights

British Airways has axed more than 1,000 flights in the past three weeks as it grapples with staff shortages, and hundreds more services have been delayed. Some customers have reported difficulties seeking refunds and other forms of redress.

Yesterday BA cancelled another 100 flights. It said customers were given several days’ notice. EasyJet has also axed hundreds of flights.

The report warns that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ‘urgently requires’ the power to immediately fine airlines that allegedly breach consumer law by not paying compensation within the legal time frame. As it stands, legal cases against carriers can take years before reaching the courts.

It also calls on ministers to introduce a system forcing airlines to pay ‘automatic compensation, eliminating the need for customers manually to apply for a refund.’

Which? has also called for an investigation into BA’s recent cancellations after claiming to have seen correspondence with passengers which did not notify them of their full compensation rights.

The consumer champion said it meant some were left out of pocket or forced to pay for expensive new flights.

Ministers are set to beef up the CAA’s powers after a three-month consultation. Rocio Concha, chief of policy at Which?, said: ‘We have long called for the CAA to be given the power to fine airlines directly, so operators can be held accountable when they flout the law.’

Passengers whose flights are cancelled are entitled to new ones on the original day of departure if a seat is available, even if it means being booked with a rival airline.

If the cancellation was notified less than two weeks before departure and the airline is responsible, passengers are also due cash compensation. For delays over three hours that are the airline’s fault, compensation of up to £520 can be claimed.

Insurers refuse claims amid travel chaos 

HOLIDAYMAKERS could be left thousands of pounds out of pocket because insurers will not cover claims for the current travel chaos.

Since the disruption is now a ‘known event’ from media reports, travel insurers may refuse to reimburse customers for money wasted on unused accommodation, car hire and excursions. Others are relying on Covid-related exclusions in the small print to deny claims.

Martyn James, from complaints website Resolver, said: ‘Just because we know Covid is prevalent does not mean we can treat flight disruption as a given. Insurers cannot absolve themselves of responsibility.’

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