The European Commission has ruled that airlines must refund passengers for cancelled flights and must not force them to accept vouchers.
Under European law, passengers are legally entitled to a cash refund when an airline cancels their flight. However, recent times have seen airlines attempt to avoid these obligations by offering vouchers instead. This evasion is not surprising given the financial uncertainty facing airlines who are axing thousands of staff, operating at a loss, and in the case of Lufthansa and some others, even seeking government bailouts in order to prevent collapse altogether.
In light of these financial difficulties, transport ministers from twelve EU member states, including France and Ireland, had asked the European Commission to make adjustments to the rules in order to allow them to issue vouchers for future travel. If passengers did not redeem the voucher within a set time period, they could then exchange it for a cash refund.
A4E, a group which represents the interests of Aer Lingus, easyJet, Ryanair and many others attacked the commission stating, “We believe refundable vouchers, or a delayed reimbursement, represents a fair and reasonable compromise given the unprecedented liquidity situations airlines are currently facing,”. However, the commission insists the rules cannot be changed and airlines should turn their attention to making vouchers more appealing if they would prefer passengers to take that route.
The European Commission is determined to protect consumers rights, “If you have lost your job, if this is your entire holiday budget for travelling that sits in these jackets you cannot use anymore, then you need a refund.” said one commissioner, highlighting the financial struggles that not only faces the airlines, but the passengers too.
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