The Civil Aviation Authority, the UK’s aviation watchdog, has been accused of “failing” passengers, over delayed refunds for flights cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, by consumer group, Which?
Which? says the CAA had allowed airlines to “continue to behave terribly” with people still owed millions of pounds.
The criticism came as the regulator published its review into refunds during the Covid19 crisis, which found several airlines, including Virgin Atlatic, easyJet, Ryanair and Tui initially had either not offered cash payments or had large backlogs of requests.
The regulator said its discussions resulted in a change of approach by carriers and they were all now offering to reimburse passengers. It also committed to continue to check on Virgin Atlantic’s performance “particularly closely and will consider the use of formal enforcement powers if necessary”.
After initially warning customers that pay outs could take up to 120 days, Virgin Atlantic has now promised to reduce the maximum wait month by month, reaching 30 days in October.
This is still well in excess of the provisions in UK consumer law, which state passengers whose flights are cancelled are entitled to cash refunds within seven days.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “The regulator is failing the consumers it is supposed to protect. People are still owed millions of pounds in refunds, are facing financial and emotional turmoil, and continue to be fobbed off by a number of airlines who have been brazenly breaking the law for months.
“These airlines will now feel they can continue to behave terribly having faced no penalty or sanction.”
He added: “The government must use this opportunity to bring in much-needed reforms, including giving regulators greater powers to take swift and meaningful action, but consumers need assurances that these will actually be used against lawbreaking companies.”