Airlines have been branded a “disgrace” for trying to circumvent refunds after cancelling flights amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has called for action to help consumers who have struggled to secure refunds for cancelled flights and holidays during the health crisis.
Figures from the charity show the number of visits to its refund pages for information on flights and holiday cancellations has risen 346%, compared to the same time last year.
The number of visits to its new page ‘refunds due to coronavirus’ since March 23 is 2,196.
Cases brought to CAS include a Glasgow couple who are waiting for around £15,000 in refunds after their wedding was cancelled.
Kate Morrison, CAS spokeswoman for Fair Markets, said: “The increase in the numbers of people viewing these pages is astonishing and shows there is a real wave of cases where people feel they have been let down by holiday companies, airlines and other traders.
“In addition to these statistics, we have anecdotal evidence of cases where people have spent tens of thousands of pounds for services which have not been delivered.
“Yet when they contact the company to try to get a refund, the company either refuses or offers vouchers instead of money. This is not acceptable. People feel like they are being ripped off.”
While admitting Covid-19 is “not the fault of the airlines or holiday companies”, Ms Morrison insists it is still the airlines’ responsibility to issue a refund.
“The bottom line is that if you pay for something and don’t get it, you should get your money back. Not in vouchers but in the money you paid.
“Refusal to comply with this simple principle, using Covid-19 as an excuse, is a disgrace.
“CAS will continue to stand with all the consumers in Scotland who are seeking the refund they are due. We note that the Compensation and Markets Authority has already stated that consumer law is on the side of the customers in this situation, and we call on them and other regulators to come down hard on any company which refuses to refund its customers.
“If these companies won’t do it voluntarily then we believe penalties are appropriate.”
The Civil Aviation Authority say that passengers have “significant rights” under EU law, adding that if a flight is cancelled the airline “must offer you the choice of a refund or alternative flight”.
Among those struggling to get their money back is Aimi Gold and Ali Miles, from Glasgow.
The couple had planned to get married earlier this month, but the plans were thrown into chaos by the pandemic.
They are out of pocket by about £15,000 and have been facing obstacles from various companies involved in the holiday.
Among those playing hardball are the venue and flight operators for the honeymoon, stag do and hen night.
Aimi said: “We have had various emails from the airlines pressuring us to take credit notes rather than refunds. We have eventually managed to get in the refund queue, but it should not have taken so much time and stress.”
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