Coronavirus: Customers' anger over cancelled flight refunds

Virus Outbreak Airlines
Virus Outbreak Airlines Copyright Elaine Thompson/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
By Oliver Whitfield MiocicLaura Ruiz Trullols
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EU law clearly states that in the event of a flight cancellation, passengers have the right to a refund. But that's not happening - some airlines are offering vouchers, instead.


Getting money back for flight tickets cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown can feel like mission impossible.

It's the case for Asmik from Vancouver, Canada, who had tickets to fly to Moscow with her husband and two children.

"We paid about €2,600 and it is absolutely frustrating and devastating because it is really not easy to save that amount of money for transatlantic trips and we really feel very frustrated with the fact that the company doesn’t respect the legislation in terms of the cash refunds for flights that are cancelled,” she said.

EU law clearly states that in the event of a flight cancellation, passengers have the right to reimbursement for the cost of the ticket within seven days. 

But many airlines are reportedly not respecting it and offering vouchers instead, citing coronavirus as an unprecedented event.

"The EU's position is pretty clear I think they are on the right side of this," says Noémi Gombás, a passenger fighting to get her money back from Uusikaupunki, Finland.

"I have seen the [EU] commissioner for transport in interviews saying all the right things. The problem is the enforcement and the problem is the Dutch government, namely the national enforcement body, that has let KLM get away with this. I hope that the EU will step up and there will be consequences."

The European Commission insists EU governments need to enforce the law.

"I don't take action directly with the airline," says Adina Vălean, European Commissioner for Transport.

She says there are governments asking for the commission to change the law, which is "not an option" for Vălean.

"I think that they have to put their energy and thinking about making vouchers more attractive if they want to use mainly this instrument but allow the passengers to exercise their right to be reimbursed," she explains.

European transport ministers are due to meet on Wednesday to tackle the turbulent issue.

"I expect this topic to be very high on the agenda," said Vălean.

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