(ConservativePeak.com)- The Competition and Markets Authority is investigating various airlines over the possibility that they failed to offer cash refunds for flights that passengers couldn’t take during the pandemic.
The CMA, which is a competition watchdog, will look into situations where the airlines still operated flights even though people were blocked by law from traveling for any non-essential purpose. This includes the second lockdown that England imposed in November.
According to the CMA, some airlines only offered customers a voucher or the opportunity to re-book their flight. They were not offered a refund.
As the chief executive of the CMA, Andrea Coscelli, said:
“We will be carefully analyzing all the evidence to see whether any airlines breached consumers’ legal rights by refusing people cash refunds for flights they could not lawfully take.
“We recognize the continue pressure that businesses are currently facing, but they have a responsibility to treat consumers fairly and abide by their legal obligations.”
The CMA plans to write to “a number of airlines” in an attempt to gain access to information about how they approached refunds for any passengers who were explicitly prohibited from flying due to a lockdown restriction. The group plans to analyze any evidence it gets before deciding whether to begin potential enforcement action against specific airlines.
During the investigation, the CMA will work with the Civil Aviation Authority, which is an aviation regulator.
Several major airlines have been accused by the consumer rights group known as “Which?” of breaking law with regard to their refunds policy. The group has written letters to Emirates, Virgin Airway and British Airways, as well as other airlines, warning them of “no-show clauses.”
These clauses deal with passengers who miss outbound flights. If this happens, airlines have the ability to cancel any connecting and return flights that are booked on the same trip ticket, and then re-sell the seats.
There are many cases that set some precedent for these refunds. LoveHolidays, and online travel agency, had to refund 44,000 of its customers more than £18 million for flights that were cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic. This happened after customers complained that they were waiting to receive their refunds.
LoveHolidays said they’d only refund customers once they received the money back from the airlines. However, the law states that travel agents must refund customers once a cancellation occurs, even if they haven’t gotten the money back from the airlines yet.
Airlines, and the travel industry in general, has ranked among the hardest-hit industries in the world during the pandemic. Thousands of flights have been cancelled during various local lockdown orders. Even when the orders were lifted, demand for air travel has dropped significantly around the globe.
Airlines have responded by laying off or furloughing workers, and more of these measures could still be possible as the pandemic is still here. U.S. airlines have been hoping for another economic boost from the federal government, and they may receive some money from the stimulus package currently being negotiated in Congress.