At the start of the pandemic airlines were cancelling flights – and keeping customers’ money. The U.S. Department of Transportation generally forced U.S. airlines to provide refunds, and pursued foreign carriers too.
E.U. consumer protection, generally thought to be stronger than in the U.S., came down on the side of the customer – but couldn’t actually do anything about it. European airlines have been stealing passenger money for 18 months.
Lufthansa, for instance, accepted refund requests and then just didn’t give customers back their money. Then they came up with something more creative to avoid refunding customers for cancelled flights: they argued a counterfactual, that they’d have refused boarding to the customer due to Covid if they had not cancelled the flight, therefore no refund is due.
By the way this was after the airline got a $10 billion bailout. It was Germany against both passengers and taxpayers.
Now 16 European airlines have agreed to return the money including Air France-KLM, British Airways, easyJet, Lufthansa, Ryanair, and TAP Air Portugal.
“In the early phase of the pandemic, some airlines pushed vouchers on passengers,” Didier Reynders, European commissioner for justice, said in a statement. “They were acting against EU consumer protection rules. That was unacceptable,” he said.
European airlines also promise to do a better job informing customers of their rights
before violating those rights next time. Airlines will not pay interest on the money they’ve held.