However, a quick search on social media is enough to find several people very unhappy with this Portuguese airline, which is owned 72.5 percent by the state. The Portugal News spoke to four of these people.
In 2019, Tânia bought two TAP tickets for March 2020, but then the pandemic happened, her flights were cancelled and she is still awaiting reimbursement. "I've sent many messages demanding my refund, but TAP is playing dead."
“Although the European Union has said that airlines have to either return the money or give a voucher, TAP has never given the option of returning the money. The only thing that happened when I asked for a refund, on TAP's webpage, they sent a voucher code! And guess what? I am still trying to get my money back,” she told The Portugal News.
In the same boat is Dan, who was coming to Lisbon for a holiday in the first quarter of 2021, but had his flight cancelled.
“Their instructions for claiming a cash refund was so confusing, I ended up getting a voucher instead. I spent countless hours on the phone trying to get them to change the voucher into a cash refund”, he said.
“On their cancellation message, TAP said ‘click here to claim a refund’ and so I followed the instructions – it was in Portuguese so I had to translate it myself – The next day I got a voucher so I think the original message was very misleading. I’m still waiting”.
Michael, a US citizen, living in Brazil, was one of the lucky ones that had their money back, but not from TAP. “TAP was unwilling to giving me the cash back but as I have a credit card I contacted my bank and they refunded me. I was able to get my money back”.
“I understand that airlines are in a difficult situation but if you are going to take someone’s money for a service, then you need to make yourself available to talk to people, especially if you are going to change flight dates. They moved mine one day after. There was no way to get there”, he said.
On the other hand, in January 2020 Paul booked flights for four people and paid with a bank transfer, which made it difficult to get a refund. However, Paul did not stop fighting until he got what he wanted.
“After 90 days, we still had no refund. After more hours of calling them, they just said it was taking longer because of the volume of refunds. It was clear from Twitter, Facebook and forums that many other TAP passengers were in the same situation and TAP was not refunding anyone”
“I decided to start a formal complaint process, and take legal action if required. The first step was to file a complaint with the Livro de Reclamações online. TAP has two weeks to respond, but they ignored the complaint. Therefore, a month or so later I contacted the regulator of their industry, ANAC, to take action. ANAC brushed me off, basically saying it was nothing to do with them that the national airline they are supposed to regulate was quite evidently not complying with EU law on refunds. So the whole complaints process in Portugal seems to be pointless, businesses can simply ignore complaints and the regulators won't act. I followed up to the EU Justice Commissioner. I explained the steps I had taken to obtain the refund via Portuguese consumer rights laws and the lack of response I'd got from Portuguese authorities.”
“At this point, things started to move. I got a response from ANAC saying they had contacted TAP and instructed them to resolve the complaint. A few weeks later we finally got our refunds,” Paul said.
TAP giving refunds
TAP recognises that there is a problem due to the huge pressure caused by the border restrictions. However, TAP claims that they are doing their best to figure it out.
"In recent months we have seen an increase in the number of calls received. The airline has been working on its teams and technological tools to face these situations within a reasonable time. To get a real idea of the problem, before the pandemic, TAP was prepared to deal with around 20,000 contacts per month. After the pandemic, TAP started to receive around 200,000 contacts per month. Ten times more”, said an official source
“TAP has set aside an important part of its budget each month for reimbursement payments and has been working hard to respond to all requests as quickly as possible. By the beginning of October, 98.8 percent of the requests had already been paid, representing a total value of €676.8 million”, the TAP source said.