Ash cloud claims still unpaid one year later
Published 11/04/2011 | 05:00
TRAVELLERS are still seeking expenses a year after ash from an Icelandic volcano grounded all flights throughout Europe.
Airlines were hit with multi-million euro bills as hundreds of thousands of passengers whose flights were cancelled claimed for accommodation, food and online booking charges under EU laws.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation confirmed it is continuing to receive queries from passengers lodging claims over hotel and food costs 12 months after airspace was closed in April and May 2010.
The number of queries more than doubled last year to 5,132, with a large proportion arising from the volcanic ash cloud.
Patricia Barton, an air passenger rights executive with the regulator, said 759 were considered valid complaints and it still has a further 200 to be considered. A further 518 people were referred to air authorities in other countries from where their flights took off. Ms Barton said two queries received last week were referred to Germany and the UK.
Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary has written to the Government urging them to intervene in the European Court of Justice over passenger compensation due to airspace closed off due to volcanic ash.
Aer Lingus confirmed it has dealt with over 70,000 requests for ticket refunds from customers whose flights were cancelled and 17,500 claims for accommodation and thousands due to online booking charges.
"All claims relating to the volcano disruption have been processed and paid out," an Aer Lingus spokeswoman said.
The airline's operating profit was down by €15m due to the volcanic ash and severe weather disruption.
Ms Barton said the queries related to all of the airlines affected. She said for every instance where they found an airline should be contributing more they also found an instance where the claims on the traveller's part were unreasonable.
Ryanair said it had responded to all claims from the 10,000 cancelled flights but it continues to examine a small number. It pointed out these included cases where passengers have failed to provide receipts, complete information or made excessive claims.
Daire Hickey, a Dublin-based technology worker, said he found the process to claim expenses difficult and was unable to provide a VAT number on a receipt after booking a hotel online. Mr Hickey said he and a friend were out of pocket by about €300 after they were grounded in Barcelona when the ash struck.
"We didn't look for anything unreasonable. The hotel cost €100 between two people -- so €50 each," Mr Hickey, who has yet to receive any monies back, said.