Travel agents slam airlines for failure to reimburse costs of cancelled flights

  • Lusa
  • 4 October 2021

APAVT and Spanish counterpart said it's "unacceptable" that some airlines have not yet returned the money owed to the companies of the two countries corresponding to reimbursements for the pandemic.

The Portuguese Association of Travel Agencies (APAVT) and its Spanish counterpart consider it “unacceptable” that some airlines have not yet returned all the money owed to the companies of the two countries corresponding to reimbursements for the pandemic.

In a statement, the two associations, APAVT and the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies (CEAV), who met at the III Summit of the Iberian Alliance of Travel Agencies, recall that the “refusal to pay these amounts is a violation of the rights of Portuguese and Spanish passengers”.

As an example, in Spain, they mention the case of Air Europa which, despite having received 475 million euros from SEPI (i.e. from taxpayers), is “returning the value of cancelled tickets in dribs and drabs”, they state.

In a statement, they also mention that CEAV has “repeatedly insisted on the need to directly link state aid to airlines to the fulfilment of their obligations to passengers, as also recommended by special report 15/2021: The rights of air passengers during the Covid-19 pandemic, published by the European Court of Auditors”.

Lusa questioned the Portuguese association about the companies concerned in this case, with an official source stating that “there are several companies owing APAVT”, without revealing amounts, but ruling out TAP and SATA, which have already practically settled their accounts.

According to the two agencies, the refusal to pay the amounts owed to passengers within the period provided for in the regulations “constitutes a violation of the rights of air passengers since the beginning of the pandemic and a clear violation of Community regulations, particularly Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, which establishes the obligation to reimburse within seven days, in the event of cancellation of flights”.

The president of the CEAV, Carlos Garrido, recalls that “Spanish and Portuguese agencies have been forced to advance refunds for flights included in the packages contracted with airlines, with the consequent losses”, which means a worsening of the “already complicated situation” in the sector.

“We share the sentiment of our counterparts in the neighbouring country, headed by the CEAV, and believe that airlines cannot be subject to situations of favouritism in relation to other ‘stakeholders’ in the tourism chain, namely travel agencies and operators, who have been faced with the legal obligation to reimburse their clients, which they did, without the same having been imposed on airlines”, says the president of APAVT, Pedro Costa Ferreira, adding that “the rights of passengers were guaranteed at the expense of travel agencies and their suppliers made a clean sweep of their obligations”.

The president of APAVT also leaves the same criticism of the “regulators” and the “European Union itself”.

“If they were quick to order States to force Travel Agencies and Tour Operators to reimburse, they were definitely not in relation to airlines,” he adds.