Emirates has revealed it has now refunded passengers nearly $2 billion for flights affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dubai-owned airline said the 1.4 million requests it’s processed so far worldwide amount to 90 per cent of its huge backlog.
The news is significant for Australian travellers given how the ACCC in July forced fellow UAE-owned airline Etihad into reversing an earlier policy that denied passengers the right to a refund if their flight was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Emirates president Sir Tim Clark said, “We understand that from our customers’ standpoint, each pending refund request is one too many. We are committed to honouring refunds and are trying our utmost to clear the massive and unprecedented backlog that was caused by the pandemic.
“Most cases are straightforward, and these we will process quickly. But there are cases which will take a bit more time for our customer teams to manually review and complete. We are grateful to our customers for their patience and understanding.”
In July, Abu Dhabi-owned Etihad was forced into a climbdown after a significant ruling by Australia’s competition commission.
In March, the airline controversially didn’t offer any refunds at all to Australian customers, despite making exceptions for those who had booked from the US and EU.
The airline partially relented in June and allowed passengers to claim their money back if the flight departed from Australia, but on Tuesday extended that pledge to any destination in the world.
Refunds have become a huge issue since the pandemic took hold, with Australian Aviation frequently reporting on customers’ frustrations with Australian Airlines.
In June, for instance, ACCC chief Rodney Sims slammed Qantas over what he felt to be a miscommunication of passenger’s legal rights, stating that the airline only “encouraged these customers to cancel bookings themselves in order to receive a credit when many would have been eligible for a refund”.
While the airline’s refund policy noted that customers booked on cancelled services were entitled to either a flight credit or a refund, Sims said that the business “did not communicate clearly with customers about their rights and, in a large number of cases, simply omitted they were entitled to a refund”.
Separately, World of Aviation has reported how Emirates has received a $2 billion bailout from Dubai’s government and has been told further support could follow depending on the length of the coronavirus crisis.
A bond prospectus, obtained by Reuters, said its state owner has been injecting the money into the business since March.