Britain's competition regulator has said that it will investigate whether airlines have breached consumers' legal rights by failing to offer cash refunds for flights that they could not legally take during a COVID-19 lockdown.
The regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, said that the new inquiry is part of its ongoing work in relation to holiday refunds during the pandemic.
COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of thousands of flights. Consumer groups have accused the airlines of being slow to issue refunds and misleading passengers into accepting flight vouchers instead of cash, flouting rules.
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Airline finances have been choked by COVID-19, with restrictions suppressing travel since March. EasyJet and Aer Lingus/British Airways-owner International Airlines Group (IAG) have had to ask shareholders for new funds and take on new debt to survive.
But the CMA said that despite the strain airlines are under, they have a responsibility to treat consumers fairly and abide by their legal obligations.
The extra probe is looking at England's second lockdown in November, when people were banned from travelling. Despite this, some airlines did not cancel flights or offer refunds to those who had booked.
The CMA said that it is working with the aviation regulator, the CAA, on the issue.
Only A Court Can Decide
In its statement, the CMA noted that only a court can decide whether any airline has breached consumers' rights.