The true test of character comes when you’re staring into the abyss and you see what stares back at you. Ethics rarely come into play when they don’t cost you anything.
Airlines revealed their true character during the pandemic. Many airlines around the world stole their customers’ money, and argued it was justified because they needed it. United Airlines simply refused to issue refunds when they cancelled flights at the start of the pandemic. They even tortured the English language and twisted themselves into a pretzel to hang onto the cash. JetBlue was a similar offender.
In contrast American Airlines refunded customers without nearly as much difficulty when they were supposed to, and they needed cash just as badly. It was the right thing to do. Memories are short, but airlines should be remembered for how they treated customers when the chips were down. It’s only because the US Department of Transportation cracked down that U.S. customers got their money.
Worldwide consumers weren’t so lucky. After a year Air Canada is finally issuing refunds, but only after the Canadian government offered them far more money than the refund cost in order to do so. They even argued US law doesn’t apply to them for U.S. flights sold to U.S. consumers in the U.S., which is why I I advised consumers to sue them.
European governments sided with what are essentially state-backed airlines over customers arguing that airlines should be able to keep customers’ money for flights purchased but then cancelled. The European Union said no, refunds are required but the EU is relatively toothless and airlines largely ignored those directives.
It’s only the smaller and less influential carriers in Europe that are seeing any enforcement, and even then outside of their home jurisdiction where they’re most powerful. And it’s taken a year, but Italy is fining Ryanair over its refusal to issue refunds.
Italy’s antitrust authority fined Ryanair 4.2 million euros ($5.12 million) for not refunding costumers for flights cancelled after June 2020 due to the COVID-19 emergency, the watchdog said on Monday.
The regulator added that the Irish airline had a “seriously unfair conduct” in cancelling planned flights, using the pandemic as the reason, and giving passengers vouchers rather than paying them back the price of their tickets.
Italy also fined easyJet and Volotea, though these airlines come out ahead with fines that are lower than the one levied against Ryanair even.