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.