The Government has been urged to resist airlines lobbying to have the rules changed on refunds for passengers whose flights have been cancelled.
Ryanair and Aer Lingus have been trying to get customers to accept vouchers in lieu of refunds. This is despite large numbers of passengers seeking refunds.
On Monday, Ryanair customers expressed frustration after being sent vouchers despite applying for refunds weeks ago. Among those affected is the presenter of 'The Last Word' on Today FM, Matt Cooper.
Airlines have been accused by passengers and travel agents of withholding the refunds and instead offering vouchers or the opportunity to rebook flights for a later date without incurring booking fees, which runs contrary to the Europe-wide EU261/2004 regulation.
Dermott Jewell, of the Consumers' Association, accused the two Irish airlines of lobbying to have the rules changed to allow them to offer vouchers.
Already, seven European countries, including Germany and France, are seeking to change the rules to allow vouchers instead of refunds, as they fear airlines based in their countries will collapse if forced to pay out refunds.
"I do think it is shocking that airlines are trying to get the law changed on this. It has taken years to put in place these rules, and to change at short notice when we are hopefully suffering a short-term economic shock is wrong," he said.
He said businesses often had strong lobbying powers.
"I would call on the Government not to change the laws and ask the airlines to engage with their customers and come to some arrangement."
He said both Ryanair and Aer Lingus/IAG were financially strong, unlike other European airlines.
The Department of Transport said airlines were required to refund their customers in circumstances where flights had been cancelled. But it said the sheer scale and breadth of Covid-19 was having a very serious impact on the financial position of all companies in the travel sector, from large airlines through to small, local travel agents. Other EU members introduced credit notes "as a means of resolving this dilemma".
"The Minister for Transport is considering the credit note as an option in his determination to strike a fair balance between protecting jobs and consumers in these unprecedented circumstances," it said.