The travel vouchers that the airlines have been giving out during the pandemic can be exchanged for money. A total of 16 major European airlines, including the Spanish Iberia and Vueling, have committed to the European Commission and the consumer protection organizations of the Member States to expedite the disbursements of canceled flights.
The Community Executive had alerted at the end of last year the authorities in charge of applying the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) to address the cancellation and reimbursement practices of several airlines in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic because they were resisting to return money to consumers.
For Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, “it is good news for consumers that airlines have pledged to respect passenger rights. In the initial phase of the pandemic, some airlines gave passengers vouchers. They acted against it. of the EU consumer protection rules, which was unacceptable. I am glad that most of them have agreed to refund these coupons. I ask the authorities to ensure that the remaining airlines also offer money back for such coupons “.
The airlines that have participated in the negotiations are: Aegean Airlines, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Easyjet, Eurowings, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Ryanair, TAP, Vueling and Wizz Air.
According to the European Commission, “in the vast majority of cases, delays in remaining refunds have been eliminated and passengers will be reimbursed within 7 days, as required by EU law.” Furthermore, “passengers will be more clearly informed about their rights as passengers in the event of a flight cancellation by an airline.”
In this sense, “the airlines will give the same importance on their websites, emails and other communications of the different options that the passenger has in case of cancellation of a flight by the airline: change of route, refund in money and , if the airline offers it, refund in a voucher “.
The airlines, in their communication to passengers, “will clearly distinguish flight cancellations by the airline, and the subsequent legal rights of the passenger, from flight cancellations by the passenger, and the possible contractual rights that the passenger may have in those cases under the terms and conditions of the airline “.
Passengers can receive vouchers only if they expressly choose them, while “most airlines agreed that vouchers not used in the early stages of the pandemic and that passengers had to accept, can be reimbursed in money if the passenger so wishes “.
In addition, “passengers who booked their flight through an intermediary and have difficulties obtaining a refund can go to the airline and request it directly.” Brussels hopes “that the airlines inform passengers about this possibility on their websites.”
From now on, the CPC network will continue to monitor if the commitments are applied correctly.
“The national authorities will decide how to address the pending problem of the non-refundable vouchers that were sent to consumers in the initial phase of the pandemic”, states the Community Executive: “The CPC network will also exchange information on ongoing investigations on possible practices unfair of certain intermediaries, in particular in the way in which they inform consumers about the conditions and rates of their services “.