(Daily Mail)–LONDON, UK–December 15th, 2020–Airlines are being investigated by the UK’s competition watchdog over failure to offer customers cash refunds for cancelled flights during Covid pandemic

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is looking into consumer rights breaches by airlines during lockdowns amid concerns that companies refused passenger refunds when travel was restricted. Some travelers also reported being offered vouchers rather than full refunds.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said its probe will look at situations where airlines continued to operate flights despite people being unable lawfully to travel for non-essential purposes, such as during England’s second lockdown last month.

It said that in some cases where flights were not cancelled, customers were told to rebook or offered a voucher rather than a refund. Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, 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 continued pressure that businesses are currently facing but they have a responsibility to treat consumers fairly and abide by their legal obligations.’

The CMA said it will write to ‘a number of airlines’ to request information about their approaches to refunds for passengers prevented from flying by lockdown restrictions.

It will analyze the evidence before deciding whether to launch enforcement action against individual carriers.

The watchdog will work closely with aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Authority during its investigation.

Consumer rights group Which? has accused several major airlines of breaking the law over their refunds policy.

They have written to BA, Virgin Airway and Emirates among others to warn them over their ‘no-show clauses’ which mean passengers who miss an outbound flight can have all their connecting and return flights cancelled and their seats resold.

Consumer rights group Which? has accused several major airlines including British Airways of breaking the law over their policy on ‘no shows’ having all subsequent flights cancelled and their seats resold

Pam Watts, 61, previously fell victim to the rule when she spent £8,227.82 on three British Airways flights for a 20-day trip to South Africa and Mauritius with her husband, Patrick, 64.

She had been forced to book a new flight from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg after BA refused to swap the departing airport from Cape Town, only to later find she had been labelled a ‘no show’ and had lost her return flights.

Canterbury County Court later ruled this was unfair because BA did not contact her to say it had cancelled her flight, and ordered they pay Mrs. Watts £2,111.59 for her new flight and other costs.

Online travel agent LoveHolidays was forced to refund 44,000 customers more than £18million for trips cancelled during the pandemic after hundreds of complaints from customers who were left waiting for their money.

The firm had said they would only be refunded for the flight once LoveHolidays had received the payment from the airline, but this flouted laws that require travel agents to refund a customer on cancellation, regardless of whether they have received the money back from the supplier.

IT company boss Paul Irvine, 41, well victim to the pandemic when his £2,700 family to Majorca in October was cancelled due to the pandemic.

It took two months until the family were told they were getting a full refund on their £1,386 RyanAir flights on September 23, but when the check finally arrived in the post in November their bank said it hadn’t cleared.

The airline told Mr. Irvine he would receive a new cheque two weeks later.

The international travel industry is among the worst hit by coronavirus, with thousands of jobs lost or at risk at airlines and airports as flights were cancelled, planes grounded and staff furloughed.

Virgin Atlantic had to secure a rescue package with jobs cuts said to total 4,700, and have also closed their Gatwick operations.

Workers reacted with fury as British Airways announced plans to shed more than 12,000 staff, and are now selling off surplus stock and supplies from its aircraft.

BA’s parent company IAG reported a £5.1bn loss for the first nine months of 2020, and its CEO Willie Walsh accused the government of causing ‘further chaos and hardship’ for travelers based on ‘arbitrary’ statistics.

British jobs are also at risk at airlines Jet2 and Aer Lingus, as well as at Hays Travel operators and Luton, Heathrow and Belfast Airports.