Aer Lingus refund delays leave passengers angry

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I read your article last week where you said Aer Lingus give refunds. I have been asking for a refund instead of a voucher for months and they said no it is not possible.

I had originally booked for July and then opted to book again for August instead of taking a voucher. Then the flight was changed to a full day and I was told that I would only get the tax back as a refund as I had booked Saver flights. It’s scandalous

Ms. TQ, email

You are right. If that’s what you’ve been told, it is. Not least because I have been assured on several occasions and by different people at Aer Lingus that the type of ticket has no bearing on the possibility of obtaining a refund.

Last week’s request for passenger refunds sparked a flurry of emails from readers here and in the United States who are clearly at their wits’ end trying to get refunds or vouchers from the airline company. A person has been waiting for six months, they tell me.

In order to answer as many questions as possible, we will break from our usual pattern and attempt to answer several related questions in this article.

In all fairness, it must be recognized that the coronavirus has been a disastrous time for airlines. Widespread travel restrictions have meant not only that most flights have been grounded for an extended period, but also that people have abandoned all essential future travel plans amid uncertainty about future restrictions and the trajectory of the virus itself.

In the absence of normal activity, airlines have had to turn to state aid while reducing their workforce or putting them on shorter hours.

But, too often in the chaos, passengers feel they have been forgotten.

Aer Lingus, in its defence, claims to have “added additional resources to our teams and introduced new technologies to improve processing times”. It indicates that “to date, more than 90% of the requests received have been processed”, with those remaining “generally more complex”.

That may be the case, but some of the questions we’ve received don’t seem too complex and it’s clear that some of the information given to people – where they’ve been given the slightest bit of information – is just plain wrong.

In the case of Ms TQ, whose case the airline is still investigating, an Aer Lingus spokeswoman once again stated categorically: “The type of ticket does not influence a person’s right to a repayment.”

So the fact that someone is on a Saver ticket – a discounted economy ticket, I suppose – should in no way prevent them from getting a refund if they otherwise meet the criteria.

Last week I was told that these criteria were as follows: “Aer Lingus customers whose bookings have been affected by a timetable change of more than two hours are entitled to a full refund.”

It sounds simple. Unfortunately, the experience of Ms. TQ and others seems to show that this has not been the case so far.

Four months

Other queries seem just as simple. Ms OD has been waiting for more than four months for a credit voucher from Aer Lingus. She’s been in touch with the call center “numerous” times and was told the voucher would be coming soon, but it has been for months now, she says.

With the airline now processing refunds, she wonders how much longer will she have to wait?

The good news is that Aer Lingus is telling me that your booking ‘has been refunded’ – I assume that means the voucher has been processed – and you should receive it within the next few days.

The issue here appears to be that the tickets were booked through the Avios loyalty rewards program, which allows you to accumulate points to apply towards ticket prices when shopping at certain stores and when buying tickets. Apparently this means that the voucher/refund request had to be processed by both Aer Lingus and Avios, adding to the delay.

No communication

Ms J McD on the US West Coast says she is still awaiting a refund for a flight that was canceled over a month ago. Her particular frustration is that she has not been able to “reach a living person”.

This is a recurring frustration for passengers. They are encouraged to submit claims for reimbursement online and cautioned against submitting multiple claims.

And there seems to be absolutely no way to inquire about the status of an ongoing refund or voucher request, even when weeks or months have passed without any information.

This is not reasonable customer service, no matter how much pressure is put on the airline. They could, reasonably, set a deadline – say a month – and say they are unable to process follow-up requests within that time.

But it’s only fair that once you go further than that, there’s a process to reassure passengers that their application hasn’t just been lost in the system. After all, in the case of long-haul flights for a family, you are talking about several thousand euros locked in bureaucracy.

Anyway, the good news for Mrs J McD is that her refund has now been processed following our investigation and you should receive it within the next few days.

I am told that additional resources are being invested in managing the passenger fallout of the crisis and that the majority of refund requests will be processed within seven to 14 working days, or up to three weeks. It seems a little late to add additional resources now, but better late than never I guess.

Aer Lingus informs me that more complex bookings – for flights that have already been booked for a later date or where multiple payment methods are used – may take longer “because they have to be processed manually”.

This, of course, suggests that simple queries should be handled in an automated system which you would have thought would avoid any delays.

Perk Restrictions

Mr GF has booked flights to the US for November and is worried about the ban on entry to Irish passport holders as part of President Donald Trump’s emergency measures to stave off the virus to enter the United States.

If forced to rebook for the following year, one of the attendees would not be able to travel, so a voucher is of limited use, he says.

The good news is that there are signs of easing US restrictions on passenger entry over the past week, so it could be academic by November.

If there is a government-issued restriction or warning against flying to a destination, Aer Lingus says you can choose to change your flight to another date or destination, although this is not good for the passenger alone. who can’t go next year unless he can fly at a different time from the rest of the group, possibly to another destination.

However, the airline’s response does not specify whether this “restriction or warning” would cover US entry rules or just our own government’s official advice on flying to particular destinations – and, as we know, the government got it in the neck over its somewhat confused advice on foreign travel.

Cheaper option

Mr B O’C’s flights have been delayed by eight hours and he wants to know if he should apply for a voucher rather than rebook as flights on other dates to the same location are now significantly cheaper .

This may be a good idea, but depending on when he wants to rebook, he should keep in mind that the voucher may not arrive in time and he may be forced to either wait and lose the cheapest fare, or to book in advance. and use the voucher for a future trip.

You’d probably be better off asking for a cash refund rather than the voucher. This would allow you to book future flights cheaper and the refund will eventually arrive in your account without having to commit to future flights.

Aer Lingus confirms that when passengers simply change their flight to a future date due to an Aer Lingus timetable change rather than requesting a voucher or refund, they do not have to pay a fare difference if newer flights are more expensive.

But, similarly, no refund is given if a customer books a new flight cheaper than the original.

Booked before Covid

Finally, Ms JO was part of a group of four who booked a November break in New York in February before the Covid crisis.

For now, this flight is still operating, but the group does not want to travel anymore due to fears about the virus and fears that they would have to be quarantined for the entire time they are in the United States and again when they return, assuming the local rules have not changed by then.

She wants to know if they should just wait to see if the flight is canceled or postponed, or if they should just transfer the reservation to next year, which is free. The third option is to cancel now and try to claim the insurance.

She also wants to know if it is possible to get a refund from Aer Lingus on the basis that the flight was booked “pre-Covid”.

When it comes to travel insurance, I would suggest that he look very carefully at the wording of his policy. She could end up canceling and find herself completely out of pocket. I suspect that might well be the case if the flight is still scheduled unless she has a medical condition that would leave her in the high risk category – and even then. . .

If they really don’t want to travel, I would also advise against a wait-and-see approach. It is likely that more flights than fewer will be operated by November, so I wouldn’t bet on the success of this approach.

She could choose to transfer the flights to next year. Aer Lingus notes that it has waived the usual fee for changing flights, but warns that you may still have to pay more if next year’s ticket prices are higher than you originally paid for them. flights this year.

There is no automatic right to a refund because the flight was booked before Covid became a factor in all of our lives. Refunds and vouchers will only apply if the flight is changed by at least two hours or cancelled.

“For future travel, says Aer Lingus, “we treat all customers equally. Therefore, there is no difference between flights booked before or after the introduction of Covid restrictions.”

Please send questions to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email [email protected] This column is a reading service and is not intended to replace professional advice. No personal correspondence will be exchanged.

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