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Test-Achats receives 20,000 airline complaints
Belgian consumer protection watchdog Test-Achats has received more than 20,000 complaints from passengers about airlines since the coronavirus outbreak began.
The most common complaints include difficulty getting a refund for a flight, or problems with the validity of a voucher issued by the airline following a cancelled flight.
Test-Achats has also reported receiving many complaints about what it calls "ghost flights" - attractive promotional offers online for flights that are later cancelled, forcing the customer to book another ticket at a higher price.
A TUI spokesperson apologised for the issue, saying: "Following a computer error, a series of flights were cancelled before being offered again at a higher price. Our customer service team is contacting each customer to find the best solution."
The most complained-about airline in Belgium, according to Test-Achats, is Ryanair, which made up 26.6% of all the flight-related cases being handled by the association. TUI came second with 21.1% and Brussels Airlines third with 17.7%.
Brussels Airlines acknowledged there was a delay in processing complaints and refund requests. "Two million of our passengers have been affected," the airline said. "We are receiving 34,000 calls per day.
"Despite increased staffing, we are accumulating delays. We will offer either a refund or an extension of the validity of tickets until 31 December 2021."
Test-Achats spokesman Jean-Philippe Ducart said airlines were dragging their heels processing refunds to help their cashflow.
"Airlines are keeping the cash to cover part of their running costs," he said. "Consumers are not an airline's banker. This is a real problem to which we have alerted the authorities."