Airlines face influx of claims following cold snap
Published 16/01/2010 | 05:00
THOUSANDS of air passengers will be entitled to reimbursement for hotel and other costs arising from cancelled and delayed flights during the recent cold snap.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation said they had been inundated with calls from consumers this week trying to find out about their consumer rights because of curtailed travel.
Bad weather does not give airlines a get-out clause from their obligations under EU law to look after passengers, said Patricia Barton of the commission.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed in Ireland last week as a result of the snow and ice, with some airports forced to close.
The UK was even worse hit, with knock-on effects on thousands of travellers. Passengers need to seek reimbursement directly from their airlines in the first place, but if this is not successful within a reasonable period they can turn to the commission for help -- or its equivalent body in other countries if that was where their flights were affected.
While bad weather means that passengers are not entitled to compensation for the inconvenience or the stress caused by flight delays and cancellations, they are entitled to have all of their direct costs -- such as food, hotel stays and travel to and from the airport -- reimbursed.
The exception to that is if they decided to travel with a different airline instead of the one they were originally booked on, in which case they are only entitled to a refund of their original fare.
And they will not be entitled to a refund of losses incurred because of being unable to travel -- such as unused tickets for football matches or accommodation in the travel destination -- because that is not covered under the EU legislation.
Ryanair said they would comply fully with the regulation and reimburse passengers for costs incurred if they posted or faxed in receipts to their claims department, although they should also keep copies for themselves. Aer Lingus said they were processing between 6,000 and 7,000 requests for refunds from passengers as a result of the bad weather and had put special measures in place to deal with the disruption.
Meanwhile, the freezing conditions appear to have sparked a desperate hunt for sunshine amongst Irish people, with booking site hotels.com reporting a dramatic increase in searches for winter sun breaks in the past two weeks.