Friday, May 24, 2024

Aviation watchdog nets €1m for passengers over airline complaints

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IAA secured compensation and refunds for customers whose main problems were delays and cancellations

That is according to the 2023 IAA annual report which shows last year it handled 4,969 complaints over airlines.

Complaints concerning long delays and cancellation made up the bulk of the grievances, at 4,719.

The IAA received 2,275 complaints over cancellations and 2,444 over long delays.

The report says that €204,000 was obtained in refunds following IAA intervention and more than €794,000 in compensation was awarded to passengers in respect of the 1,155 upheld complaints.

The €998,000 payout compares to the IAA’s predecessor, the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) obtaining €348,000 in refunds and compensation for air passengers in 2022.

The 2023 report says that 1,797 complaints were not upheld in favour of the complainant “and the main reason was that the air carrier was able to prove that a disruption was caused by extraordinary circumstances and therefore would be exempt from paying compensation”.

The report says in 2023, Aer Lingus accounted for 35pc of all complaints, while Ryanair accounted for 30pc, and Emerald Airlines made up 7pc.

The remaining 28pc of complaints related to 56 other airlines.

The report said that complaint numbers for 2023 remained broadly in line with 2022 figures, and overall there had been a significant increase in the volume of complaints received since 2017 concerning the rights of air passengers if their flight was cancelled or delayed, or they had been denied boarding or downgraded.

The report outlines how the IAA last year received 23 person with reduced mobility (PRM) complaints – the highest number of such complaints in any one year, with 13 against airlines, seven against airports and one against both an airline and an airport.

The report says that the 2023 complaints included damage caused to a passenger’s wheelchair, delays in a passenger receiving assistance in an airport, treatment of a passenger by security personnel in an airport, instructions given to a passenger regarding screening of mobility equipment and a pre-notified passenger not receiving assistance from an airport management body’s service provider.

The report shows that last year, the IAA paid out €1.58m in legal costs and settlements, made up of €1.1m in legal costs and settlements of €487,000.

The number of legal cases totalled 12. The report says that the legal costs and settlements are above amounts in relation to the settlement of an employment law case with a former CEO – no breakdown is provided.

In 2018, ex-CEO Eamonn Brennan initiated legal proceedings against the IAA for breach of employment contract in the amount of €782,644.

Last year, revenues at the IAA declined by 57pc to €91m arising from the transfer of air navigation functions to a new commercial semi-State, AirNav Ireland.

The IAA last year recorded a pre-tax profit of €1.7m which was down 92pc on the pre-tax profits of €22.2m in 2022.

Staff costs almost halved from €76m to €39.25m following the creation of AirNav Ireland. Staff shared a €862,000 lump sum in two tranches in October 2023 and February 2024 to compensate for a pay cut as part of a suite of Covid cost containment measures.

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