European Union Stands By Airline Refund Rules, Says Countries Should Make Vouchers More Attractive

Twelve European countries asked the European Union to suspend normal rules requiring airlines to provide refunds to customers when their flights are cancelled.

The European Union’s rule 261 applies to flights cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic and requires these refunds. The E.U. reiterated that March. However European airlines have been ignoring this and not processing refunds, at least for their European customers. (For flights to and from the U.S., the Department of Transportation has insisted on refunds and most airlines have complied.)

The E.U. will release a document on Wednesday that responds to this. And they will not suspend refund rules. Instead they suggest that countries and airlines take steps to make vouchers more attractive, so that consumers will be more willing to accept them in lieu of refunds.

  • Instead of vouchers for a certain amount of airfare, vouchers should protect a consumer’s right to travel on a specific route, even if prices are higher in the future.

    Subject to availability and irrespective of any fare or price difference, carriers should ensure that vouchers allow passengers to travel on the same route under the same service conditions as detailed in the original booking; organisers should ensure that vouchers allow travellers to book a package travel contract with the same type of services or of equivalent quality as the terminated package.

  • Governments should consider guaranteeing the vouchers, so consumers don’t bear the risk of an airline bankruptcy.

  • Unused vouchers should turn into refunds rather than simply expiring.

While the E.U. thinks that “consumer and passenger organisations at all levels [should] encourage travellers to accept the vouchers instead of reimbursement” provided these changes are put into place, they will not suspend a consumer’s right to a refund.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This actually seems pretty great if European airlines take the advice. I love the idea of vouchers for a specific route. That would tempt me to take the voucher in all honestly if it was a place I definitely wanted/needed to go.

  2. Si the EU recommends not charging fare difference, meaning everyone would be able to use their travel vouchers to rebook their trip during peak periods such as Christmas?

  3. If I had a business and had a contract where my customer prepaid me for a widget, and I could not deliver the widgets because of some reason… would the EU say its fine for me to just say I will give the customer a piece of paper that says that I have credit for the future? I am thinking that requiring refunds for services not received should always be a mandatory option, not just a theoretical credit.

    Because we are merely the lowly consumer and not another business, the expectation is that we must just take what is offered. And the titans of industry that end up making the rules continue to make rules that they themselves would never allow themselves to be subject to.

  4. If an airline had my payment, and the flight didn’t happen, then I want my payment back, not a voucher, and not airline miles.

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