The boss of British Airways’ parent IAG has denied the airline is refusing refunds to customers and defended the issue of vouchers for cancelled flights.
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh told MPs on the Transport Select Committee: “Where customers are entitled to a refund they will get it.”
He said: “Where we cancel a flight the customer is entitled to a refund. If the customer wants to cancel in advance of us cancelling a flight, we offer rebooking or a voucher.”
Walsh conceded: “A refund may take a little longer than normal. There is an unprecedented level of cancellations. But where a customer is entitled to a refund they will get a refund.
“Vouchers are an option we’re offering if people would like to cancel in advance and the flight is not cancelled.”
He declined to say how many refunds were outstanding or how many vouchers had been issued, saying: “I can’t give specifics. We have given a commitment to refund everyone who wants a refund. We attempt to refund everyone as quickly as possible.”
However, Walsh told MPs: “Since the beginning of March, IAG has repaid over €1.1 billion in refunds.”
He defended BA’s removal of the option to apply for a refund online, saying: “The online system was not set up to deal with the volume of refund claims we are receiving. Most of these have to be manually processed at one level or another.”
MPs questioned the IAG boss about the extent of state aid the airline group had received, with Walsh confirming BA had taken advantage of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as well as raising £300 million through a Bank of England commercial loan scheme.
He described the government’s job retention scheme as “welcome”, but said: “The scheme gives us about 10 additional days of cash.
“People need to understand the situation. It buys us a little time, measured in days not weeks or months.”
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