Extra staff drafted in for passenger claims
Ryanair, Aer Lingus braced for expenses requests
AIRLINES are drafting in extra staff to help cope with expected demands for reimbursement after the volcanic ash crisis.
With flights to and from Ireland operating as normal yesterday -- and most stranded passengers finally making it home -- airlines have begun to count the cost of the crisis.
Ryanair said it had drafted in 100 extra staff to process claims for the cost of hotels and meals, complaints and other correspondence connected to the grounding of flights.
A spokesman said the airline had only received a small number of claims so far, but as they had to be faxed or sent in by post, it was anticipating that large volumes would start arriving next week.
Full receipts would have to be submitted for reasonable expenses, said Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara.
"People shouldn't expect refunds for five-star hotel accommodation, or for meal receipts bumped up with loads of alcohol," he said.
It was impossible to say how long the reimbursement process would take, but Ryanair was taking on 100 students working two shifts a day from Monday in order to deal with it efficiently, he said.
Aer Lingus said it had received a large number of claims for refunds already and expected more in the coming week.
The airline said it would be drafting in extra resources to its customer relations department to assist with the expected volume of mail.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) has set out details on its website www.aviationreg.ie to tell passengers how to go about getting reimbursements for "reasonable expenses" if they waited for a flight home with their original airline.
However, CAR urged people to be patient in their dealings with airlines "in recognition of the volume of reimbursement requests that airlines will be required to process over the coming weeks".
"In that context passengers are requested to allow a reasonable time on the part of the airline to review requests for reimbursement and respond to passengers," the regulator said.
But it warned that people who travelled home by other means -- such as by train or with another airline -- would only be entitled to a refund of their original airfare, and not any additional expenses.
The commission said that where airlines did not respond adequately to customer claims, passengers could complain to CAR and while the commission was only responsible for processing complaints relating to cancelled flights from Ireland, it would forward complaints to the relevant enforcement bodies in other EU countries.
Meanwhile, Ryanair said that as there were booked passengers choosing not to fly, some flights were being overbooked so that people -- who were still waiting to to get home from destinations in southern Europe -- could be accommodated.
Aer Lingus said that whenever possible it had tried to alert waiting passengers that an earlier flight had become available.
Throughout Europe close to 29,000 flights operated, the normal number at this time of year according to air traffic agency Eurocontrol.
However, ash forced the closure of the airport in Icelandic capital Reykjavik for the first time in the crisis.
It had previously been able to remain open despite being just 100km from the active volcano, because the wind had blown the ash in the opposite direction until yesterday.