Family win €500 refund in ash cloud flight row
AER Lingus has agreed to refund a family left €500 out of pocket by the volcanic ash crisis.
Paul Lennon and his family were furious that they were forced to pay an extra €500 for flights to Tenerife in May after their original flight was cancelled.
When the family turned up at the airport on May 11, Aer Lingus told the family the flight had been cancelled due to the ash crisis and its options were to take a refund or book on to the next available flight-- which wasn't until three weeks later.
As they had already booked and paid for accommodation in Tenerife, Paul decided to take the refund, and see if they could get out some other way. But, when he checked from home the following morning he discovered Aer Lingus did indeed have flights available the next day.
These were €500 more expensive than the original flights, but when Paul asked at the airport for Aer Lingus to cover the difference, he was told that they wouldn't do this because he had already accepted a refund on the original booking.
Mr Lennon from Arklow in Co Wicklow was furious -- saying he had only accepted the refund because Aer Lingus told him he would have to wait three weeks for a flight.
He didn't want to disappoint his wife Linda, sons Aidan (10), Luke (7), Dylan (4) and Kyle (2), and mother-in-law Margaret Wolohan over the keenly awaited family holiday.
"I feel they robbed that €500 from my children because it was money we should have been able to spend on them. I will never travel with Aer Lingus again, and I'd advise anyone else against it also," he said.
To add insult to injury, when he returned from the holiday he spent hours on the phone trying to contact Aer Lingus head office -- only to be told it was not possible to make a complaint on the phone or by email. He did not get any response to the two letters of complaint he sent in.
However, when the Irish Independent contacted Aer Lingus on his behalf last week, the airline was quick to change its tune.
It said that it had put on extra flights and larger planes to deal with the backlog of passengers whose travel plans had been disrupted and many of these had filled up quickly, with availability changing from hour to hour as people rescheduled their arrangements.
Some of the extra seats had been priced higher than normal to discourage new bookings by customers who had not been affected by the original disruption, and instead allow those who had to rebook with no extra charge.
"As Mr Lennon had already cancelled his booking he was not able to change onto the newly available flight.
"This option should have been made available to him and therefore we are happy to refund Mr Lennon the additional costs incurred," the airline said.
Mr Lennon said he was pleased the airline had finally decided to give him the refund, but he shouldn't have had to resort to getting media involved to resolve the problem.
"Anyone who does business in a recession knows there's nothing more important than looking after your customers. It's outrageous that Aer Lingus won't even allow you talk to anyone if you have a problem, they seem to hope by doing that you'll just go away," he said.
He encouraged anyone else who had a problem to pursue their complaint relentlessly.
Aer Lingus said they had refunded over 70,000 flight bookings already and reimbursed over 7,000 claims for hotel accommodation and other expenses incurred as a result of the ash crisis.