Sixteen major airlines including Air France, Alitalia, British Airways, EasyJet, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Ryanair and Vueling have agreed to improve compensation rights for passengers whose flights were cancelled because of the pandemic.
The agreement comes after months of discussion between the airlines, the European Commission and the European Consumer Rights Protection Groups (BEUC).
“During the pandemic, airlines have massively violated consumer rights. It’s time to get their picture clear. Many customers across Europe are still waiting for refunds for flights cancelled during the first lockdowns in 2020,” says Monique Goyens, CEO of BEUC.
The airlines made a number of important commitments, including better informing passengers of their rights and clearly distinguishing between flights cancelled by the airline and those cancelled by the passenger.
They also committed to only granting vouchers to passengers if they want them.
The EU Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, had previously said that airlines pushing vouchers on passengers instead of refunds was against European consumer protection law and was “unacceptable.”
Third Party Bookings
Another important concession was on flight bookings made through an intermediary such as an online travel agent, which airlines baulked at dealing with, instead telling passengers that whatever refund was due to them had to come from the OTA.
As a result of the agreement, airlines said that passengers struggling to be reimbursed by the third-party can now request a refund directly from the airline.
EU Commissioner for transport Adina Vălean welcomed the agreement and said she was pleased the airlines concerned “have committed to solve the remaining issues”.
“This is crucial to restoring passengers’ confidence,” she added.
“The recovery of the air transport sector depends on this. This is why we are also currently assessing regulatory options to reinforce passenger protection against future crisis, as foreseen in our Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.”
The European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA) has also welcomed the agreement but has urged the European Commission and relevant authorities to “monitor closely the implementation of these commitments and of airlines’ general respect for passengers’ rights,” it said in a statement.
“Should airlines fail to live up to their promises, appropriate enforcement measures should be taken immediately.
“It is crucial that consumer trust be rebuilt with a more stringently enforced EU consumer protection framework in air travel.”
- Aegean Airlines
- Air France
- Austrian Airlines
- British Airways
- Brussels Airlines
- Wizz Air