Civil Aviation Authority urges airlines to do more on refunds
The Civil Aviation Authority has said airlines operating in the UK still had work to do when it came to offering refunds for cancelled flights in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government body said a review into the issue had identified a group of carriers which have “substantial backlogs” of refund claims and are taking “too long to process refunds”.
This group includes some major carriers with large backlogs of refund requests extending to many months.
Officials at the CAA have asked these airlines to provide commitments they will speed up the process.
Launched in March, the review is looking into the refund policies of all UK airlines, as well as a number of international airlines that operate flights to and from the UK.
“We have published guidance and advice for both industry and consumers on this important issue throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
“We support airlines offering vouchers and rebooking alternatives where it makes sense for the consumer, but we have reiterated to airlines that they must provide cash refunds to passengers who request this where a flight has been cancelled,” the CAA said in a statement.
“We do not expect airlines to systematically deny consumers their right to a refund, and our review is considering whether any further action needs to be taken to protect consumer rights.”
Of the eighteen airlines contacted, all engaged with the CAA on the issues and have confirmed they are now paying refunds.
The review also identified a selection of airlines that are paying refunds quickly and that do not have a sizeable backlog of refund requests.
A third group was identified, based on passenger complaints, that did not appear to be providing refunds at all.
Having engaged with these airlines, the Civil Aviation Authority said it could now confirm these airlines are all paying refunds.
A number of airlines have now introduced new systems for processing refunds.
More work remains to be done by this group of airlines to make it clear to passengers that they are entitled to a refund and show that there is a straightforward process for claiming it.
The CAA added: “Only a minority group of airlines have been consistently providing consumers with refunds in an acceptable timeframe, however we have noted a marked improvement across most airlines since our review commenced.”
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said airlines must do more.
He explained: “This update from the regulator confirms what we have been highlighting to it for months – that airlines are continuing to disregard the law and withhold huge sums of money from their passengers during a time that has placed incredible stress on people’s financial and emotional wellbeing.
“The time for monitoring and performance reviews has long passed.
“Airlines have been breaking the law on refunds for months, and to delay action for any longer goes against the regulator’s claims to be on the side of consumers.
“We need to see urgent enforcement action to hold airlines to account, set a higher standard for the months ahead, and demonstrate that there are real consequences to breaking the law on refunds.”