MEP urges passengers to accept vouchers instead

June 8th, 2020 5:50 PM

By Southern Star Team

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Sinn Féin TD maintains ‘those who need a refund should not be made to feel they are doing something wrong for requesting one’

FOR airline passengers whose holidays were wrecked by the Covid-19 pandemic and who now want their money back for cancelled flights, the offer of vouchers instead of cash is not good enough.

Thousands have had their hols wrecked and are now encountering difficulties in getting a refund for cancelled airline flights. As matters stand, they have a choice: to accept a voucher for the value of the flight or go through the tedious process of trying to get cash back.

Local Fine Gael MEP, Deirdre Clune, who enjoys a splendid history of promoting Cork Airport, recommends that frustrated passengers should accept the voucher as vouchers are the best choice to ensure the long term viability of struggling airlines.  There might even be  a little bonus for the recipients!

Here’s what she said: ‘It is important that consumers are protected against potential losses when it comes to their holiday and travel, and so we have asked that airlines when giving vouchers to do so at a value of 110%.”  Brill!

Her proposal, however, didn’t cut much ice with Cork Sinn Féin TD, Thomas Gould, who tartly commented that it was unfair to expect passengers to carry the financial burden for commercial airlines.

‘The money that passengers spent on flight tickets must be returned. You can’t pay an electricity bill, the rent or the mortgage with an airline voucher. Those who need a refund should not be made to feel they are doing something wrong for requesting one,’ he told the local meeja.

He continued: ‘I fully appreciate that the current environment is challenging for airlines but we are talking about the hard-earned money of people who may need it to get to the end of the month in what are very difficult times.’

The matter has landed in the lap of our politicos like a hot potato even though the European Commission is quite clear on the issue: people are entitled to a cash return for flight cancellations despite the pressure currently being put on them to take vouchers.

Comments from the travel claims company, Aireclaim, which is funded by the European Union, are interesting. It says that according to EU law, ‘all travellers have the right to receive the ticket price back in full and within seven days. Some airliners are acting illegally by forcing passengers to accept a voucher.

‘If you want a cash refund and the airline sends you a rebooking voucher, but you did not sign an agreement for a voucher, you can still claim money back,’ said Aireclaim.

However, the insurance company recognises that replacing a cash refund with a flight voucher valid for a future date also can be acceptable, but the consumer must agree with the arrangement.

Also contrary to EU law is the practice of advising passengers to claim against the Travel Agency that sold the ticket.

Both Ryanair and Aer Lingus are encouraging passengers to accept vouchers instead of refunds, and have had Vlad’s government to make their case at EU level.

Nevertheless, EU Regulation 261/2004 remains valid. It indicates the circumstances in which passengers are entitled to a refund. (The sum the airlines have to pay back is €25m!)

Bleak future

So what’s the future for the Soldiers of Destiny and their leader, Mickey? Bleak is the word that comes mind as the latest poll shows the decline of the FF vote in recent months. Stuck at 14 or 15 points, it shuffles in the coat-tails of Sinn Féin, the party Mickey likes to condemn for every sin committed since the year Dot.

And, whereas Fine Fáil’s collapse under Mickey’s leadership inexorably gets worse, Sinn Féin is holding steady at  a respectable 27%.

Yet, only a month ago Vlad and Mickey were grinning like hobgoblins at a ‘joint framework document’ that was billed as a model for ‘improving the wellbeing of the Irish people.’  Where is the grand aspiration now as the F&Fers begin the slow, tortuous slide into obscurity?

In the meantime, let’s not forget FF’s noble aspirations, such as ‘reigniting the economy,’ ‘housing for all,’ ‘a better quality of life for all’ (don’t forget the ‘for all’ bit!), ‘supporting Young Ireland’ (whatever that is!), ‘a shared island,’ ‘a new Green Deal’ and whatever you’re having yourself Mr Mackessy.

The plan got about four minutes on Morning Ireland after which, we assume, it was then pigeon-holed under the category of  ‘ramblings of benign lunatics who are harmless but best avoided’!   

Recently, Brian Hanley pertinently suggested in The Guardian newspaper that the Establishment was rattled at  the disruption of the FF/FG two-party system and that the negative media coverage of Sinn Féin’s electoral breakthrough reflected annoyance at the situation of major parties, which once commanded over 80% of the electorate.

Pro bono publico?

In the meantime, as long as the Dáil does not elect a new Taoiseach, the previous one continues in a ‘caretaker capacity’ and, in theory, such a situation can continue indefinitely. For which reason Shane Ross remains a minister for something or other, although dumped by the electorate; also in there is Katherine Zappone who lost her seat. Even Finian McGrath, a retiree from politics and who didn’t contest the election, continues as Minister of State for Disabilities.

Labour opts out

To its credit, the Labour Party, under its new leader Alan Kelly, finally decided to bite the bullet and face reality. Recognising the party hasn’t a snowball’s chance of strutting its way into government (as in the old days when the Stickies ran the show), he declared that Labour did not intend to join talks in the formation of a government with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or the Greenies.

Good man, and a noble gesture, particularly since both Mickey and Vlad dangled an opportunistic carrot before Labour’s collective nostrils.  They promised to honour the public sector pay deal if Labour showed some interest in collaborating with ‘the chaps’ in order to form a government.

All at sea!

Oh, and what about Vlad describing the Six Counties as ‘overseas’ during an interview on the Pat Kenny radio show? Referring to the rather limited global membership of Fine Gael, he commented: ‘We do have some overseas members, though. We have members in Belfast, for example.’

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