Timely reimbursement after flight cancellations [EC press release]
Following dialogues with the Commission and national consumer protection authorities, 16 major airlines have committed to better information and timely reimbursement of passengers in case of flight cancellations. The Commission had alerted the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) enforcement authorities in December 2020 to address several airlines’ cancellation and reimbursement practices in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders said: “It is good news for consumers that airlines cooperated during the dialogues, and committed to respecting passengers’ rights and improving their communication. In the early phase of the pandemic, some airlines pushed vouchers on passengers. They were acting against EU consumer protection rules.That was unacceptable. Following our joint action, I am pleased that most of them have now agreed to refund these vouchers. I call on authorities to ensure that the remaining airlines also offer a money refund for such vouchers.”
Overview of airlines’ commitments
Following the dialogues, these are the commitments made by the airlines:
- remaining reimbursement backlogs have been cleared in the vast majority of cases and passengers will be refunded within 7 days as required under EU law;
- passengers will be informed more clearly about their passenger rights in the event of a flight cancellation by an airline;
- airlines will give equal prominence on their websites, e-mails and other communication to passengers to the different options the passenger has in the event of a flight cancellation by the airline: rerouting, refund in money and – if offered by the airline – refund in a voucher;
- airlines will, in their communication to passengers, clearly distinguish flight cancellations by the airline (and the passenger’s ensuing statutory rights) from flight cancellations by the passenger (and possible contractual rights that the passenger may have in those cases under the airline’s terms and conditions of carriage);
- passengers can be given vouchers only if they expressly choose them. Most airlines agreed that unused vouchers that the passengers at the early stages of the pandemic had to accept, can be reimbursed in money if the passenger so wishes;
- passengers who booked their flight through an intermediary and have difficulties getting reimbursement from the intermediary can turn to the airline and request to be refunded directly. Airlines are expected to inform passengers about this possibility and any conditions for requesting a direct refund on their websites.