Dear European Airlines: Stop Refusing EC 261/2004 Flight Refunds


European Airlines Are Still Holding Passengers' Cash Hostage, as they and other airlines hemorrhage cash. While it's understandable that they're trying to keep afloat and stem the outflow of money from flights that have had to be cancelled over the coronavirus and European flight ban the U.S. has instituted, EC 261/2004 passenger rights require European airlines to offer passengers a refund back to their payment card, not just a voucher towards a future flight or free flight changes.

Nevertheless, many airlines are still resisting and not providing this option. Here's a message from SAS regarding flights it has cancelled for clients:

“Due to the current situation, we need to adjust and change our flight schedules. We understand that this is not optimal for you and we are aware of the impact this decision has. But your safety and well-being is always our highest priority. If you’ve booked a flight with us with departure scheduled before 30 April, we have different options.


If you’ve booked a trip with departure scheduled before 30 April 2020, you can rebook your flight without having to pay a rebooking fee. If you opt to rebook, you can choose a new travel date up to 28 February 2021. Please note, however, that if you change to a higher fare type, you may need to pay the difference. To rebook your trip, just go to Manage my booking


If you prefer, you can postpone your trip and get a voucher with the value equivalent to your booking. The voucher has to be used for a trip planned to depart by 30 November 2020 the latest (the outbound trip needs to take place before this date, the return trip can be at a later date)

To get your voucher, just go to Manage my booking…”


Of course, the European carriers aren't the only ones doing this–U.S. airlines, which aren't subject to EC 261/2004 unless it's for a flight departing from Europe, aren't permitting cash refunds either, only travel credit towards future flights.

The contrast with hotels is striking; while properties understandably would also prefer to hold on to deposits and have guests rebook for a later date, with the exception of one hotel (one of Marriott's luxury brands) that has gone radio silent when we've insisted on a refund, most hotels realize they're in the hospitality business and guests will remember and avoid them if they drag their feet over refunds.

Sadly, the same isn't true for airlines: it's much more of an oligopoly, and right now, that's reflected in their resistance to refunds.

Have you experienced issues getting an airline to honor its EC 261/2004 obligations to pay a refund if the airline cancelled your flight?

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2 years ago

Do you blame them, they need to hold onto the cash for survival. Obviously if people take them to court, they will lose, but that will take a long time and not everyone will go that route?