Covid 19 Travel Disruption – Your Rights. By Eoghan O’Sullivan, Solicitor at KOD Lyons Solicitors
We as a global community are now staying apart in order to stand together in order to try and stem the tide against the Covid 19 outbreak. Without a doubt, it is extremely important that people heed the advice being given by the HSE in respect of maintaining social distance and remaining at home as best as you can to protect yourself and others around you.
However we are now coming up to that time of the year that people work for and look forward too. Holidays! The Easter Break, Bank Holiday weekends, family holidays and quick city breaks. Many of us may have booked flights to a destination around the world to unwind and enjoy the finer weather. Unfortunately we now find ourselves in position where countries are on lockdown and travel restrictions have been imposed around the world.
In these circumstances question remains as to what will happen with our flights? What options are available to us due to their cancellations? Am I entitled to a refund or voucher or do I have to change the flight dates?
The law that governs the rights of air passengers is set out in the Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 of the European Parliament and Council. This regulation protect the rights of air passengers where they are denied boarding against their will, where a flight is cancelled or a flight is delayed. It also outlines the circumstances in which a passenger can receive compensation for a breach of their rights and also their rights to reimbursement or re routing.
EU air passenger rights apply:
If your flight is within the EU and is operated either by an EU or a non-EU airline
If your flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline
If your flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country operated by an EU or a non-EU airline
If you have not already received benefits (compensation, re-routing, assistance from the airline) for flight related problems for this journey under the relevant law of a non-EU country.
EU means the 27 EU countries, including Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion Island, Mayotte, Saint-Martin (French Antilles), the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It does not include the Faroe Islands, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
Article 5 of the regulation offers protections to those whose flights were cancelled by the airline. Article 5 states that in the case of cancellation of a flight, the passengers concerned shall be offered assistance by the operating carrier in accordance with Article 8 of the Regulation. Article 8 states that passengers shall be offered the choice between:
reimbursement within seven days, by the means provided for in Article 7(3), of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant,
a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity
re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity; or
re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience, subject to availability of seats.
In respect of the “reimbursement” a person would be entitled to that which is set out in Article 7(3) which states that the reimbursement shall be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers and/or other services.
The Regulations also provide for the payment of compensation under Article 7. However due to the unprecedented circumstances it would be highly unlikely that compensation would be payable in most instances.
These regulations would cover most people who take it upon themselves to organise their own flights. However some people rather book through travel agents. This EU Regulation as well as EU Regulation 90/314/EEC, offer rights and protections to those who booked packages through travel agents or other online travel providers.
Paragraph 1(a) of Article 8 shall also apply to passengers whose flights form part of a package, except for the right to reimbursement where such right arises under Directive 90/314/EEC. According to Article 6 of that directive, if a person withdraws from the contract with the travel agent, whatever cause, other than the fault of that person, or the organizer cancels the package before the agreed date of departure, the consumer shall be entitled either to take a substitute package of equivalent or higher quality where the organizer and/or retailer is able to offer him such a substitute or to be repaid as soon as possible all sums paid by him under the contract.
As money may be getting tight for most households around the country, people should not be afraid to seek a full refund of the money they spent on flights/packages and not feel obliged to take the offer of travel vouchers instead.
If you have any questions on the rights of consumers in relation to flight or hotel travel plans, please do not hesitate to send your queries to Eoghan.firstname.lastname@example.org