European Airlines to Refund COVID-19 Cancelled Flights and Unwanted Vouchers

European Airlines to Refund COVID-19 Cancelled Flights and Unwanted Vouchers


16 European Airlines Will Refund COVID-19 Cancelled Flights and going forward, more clearly inform travelers of their passenger rights for cancelled flights, as well as offer vouchers only when passengers affirmatively choose them (which should be pretty much never).

In March 2020 we reported on European airlines refusing EC 261/2004 flight refunds that passengers were entitled to, and more recently, we reported on the best and worst airlines in 2020 for refunds from cancelled flights. Not a single European airline made the best airlines for refunds list, while the worst airlines for refunds featured TAP Air Portugal (#3); Lufthansa (#8) and British Airways (#12).

Fortunately, at long last, the following European airlines have made commitments to the European Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) authorities:

  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • Austrian Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Easyjet
  • Eurowings
  • Iberia
  • KLM
  • Lufthansa
  • Norwegian
  • Ryanair
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Vueling
  • Wizz Air

These are the commitments the airlines have agreed to:

  • Clear any outstanding refunds due passengers from flights that airlines cancelled due to COVID-19. Going forward, airlines must refund passengers who are due refunds within seven (7) days as required under EU law
  • Inform travelers more clearly about their passenger rights in the event the airline cancels a flight
  • Give equal prominence on airline websites and emails to the different options a passenger has in the event of a flight cancelled by the airline: 1) Rerouting; 2) Monetary refund; 3) Voucher refund
  • Clearly distinguish flight cancellations by the airline (and the passenger's statutory rights) from flight cancellations by the passenger 
  • Only refund passengers with vouchers IF passengers affirmatively choose the voucher option. Most airlines agreed that unused vouchers that the passengers at the early stages of the pandemic had to accept may be reimbursed with a monetary refund if the passenger so wishes
  • Refund passengers directly even if they booked through an intermediary, if the passenger has difficulties getting reimbursement from the intermediary. Airlines are expected to inform passengers about this possibility and any conditions for requesting a direct refund on their websites.

“In the early phase of the pandemic, some airlines pushed vouchers on passengers,” said Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders. “They were acting against EU consumer protection rules.That was unacceptable.” Reynders went on to say that he's glad that most of the airlines have agreed to refund the vouchers. He urges the respective national authorities to ensure that the remaining airlines also offer a money refund for these vouchers that airlines forced passengers to accept.

Now if only the United States could also develop stronger airline passenger rights, similar to EC 261/2004.

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