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Varadkar defends backing airlines in battle over customer refunds

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has defended backing airlines in the battle over customer refunds saying the government doesn't want to see airlines fail.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil he wants to see Ryanair and Aer Lingus operating later in the summer and doesn't want to be in a position where the State has to bail out airlines.

Ireland is one of 12 countries that have put their names to a letter calling on the European Commission to change the rules on refunds for cancelled airline flights.

Rise TD Paul Murphy claimed the government has taken the side of airlines in seeking to "scrap normal consumer rights".

Some airlines have been offering vouchers rather than refunds.

He claimed the government's actions are an indication that the "mistakes of the past" will be repeated and "big businesses will be bailed out.

Mr Varadkar said the major actions government has taken has been to bail out people and workers.

He pointed to the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Mr Varadkar said that as he understands it the law has not changed and people are entitled to a cash refund for cancelled flights.

He added: "However, we have to be practical about this. I don’t want to see airlines fail...

"I want to see Ryanair and Aer Lingus operate some time later in the summer and some time in August, and I would not like to be in a situation whereby we have to bail out airlines because they failed."

Mr Murphy said Ireland has written to the EU calling for the law to be changed.

Mr Varadkar said the government has not taken a formal position on the issue of vouchers or refunds.

He said: "There maybe something at Department level so I will have to check but even so, I doubt that any law could be changed retrospectively.

"I may be wrong about that but I have never come across anyone changing a consumer protection law retrospectively.

"It might be changed prospectively but I do not see how it could be changed retrospectively."

He said: "I will get a briefing on that issue but there is no Government decision on it."

Online Editors