Vouchers instead of refunds for cancelled passenger flights

  • Lusa
  • 30 April 2020

In a joint statement presented to the EU executive, Portugal wants a temporary change in the rules for passengers with cancelled flights.

Portugal and 11 other EU countries have asked the Commission for a temporary change in the rules for passengers with cancelled flights, to be given ‘vouchers’ instead of cash refunds, given the difficulties of the carriers.

In a joint statement presented to the EU executive, and to which the Lusa agency had access, Portugal, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, France, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands and Poland stress that “the pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on international transport, including air transport”.

For these 12 member states, the European regulation on common rules for assistance to air passengers in the event of cancellation of flights is putting “airlines in a difficult situation, where they face a serious challenge in terms of liquidity”, as it obliges them to choose between cash refunds or ‘vouchers’ for future use.

They therefore call on “the European Commission to propose, as a matter of urgency, a temporary amendment to the regulation […] allowing airlines to choose the means of reimbursement for passengers”, considering that this measure “would provide a solution to the airlines’ current liquidity constraints while preserving the competitiveness of European aviation”.

In its view, it would also involve “harmonised criteria for application at European level”, which would make it possible to draw up “a common and appropriate level of consumer protection”.

“We believe it is possible and acceptable for consumers to regulate the temporary issuing of vouchers, if certain fundamental principles are taken into account” such as transparent information, non-discrimination, time limit and flexibility for use and the establishment of the right to a refund at the end of validity in the event of non-use of the vouchers, they also stress.

On Tuesday, European Transport Commissioner Adina Valean warned that while “some Member States are encouraging companies to opt for ‘vouchers’ as an alternative to reimbursement, this is not compatible with EU rules”.

The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) has estimated that the European aviation sector will lose 110 billion euros this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Eurocontrol, on average between 3,000 and 4,000 flights are being made each day in Europe, most of them freight, and the equivalent of 20 to 30,000 fewer than in the same period in 2019.