13 European nations have formally asked the European Union to stop requiring refunds for cancelled flights. Will the EU finally cave in at the expense of consumers?
I’ve already written about how Germany has backed Lufthansa’s efforts to deny refunds in favor of future flight credit. Although not stated directly, it seems that Germany would rather have ticketholders and other interested parties bailout Lufthansa than taxpayers in general. Negotiations remain ongoing, but Lufthansa does not like the terms of the bailout deal, which carries government control and a high interest rate.
12 More Nations Call On EU To Suspend Refunds Under EC 261/2004
12 other nations have now called on the European Commission to suspend “onerous” refund rules in light of changing events.
First, they make a foreseeability argument.
“When the wording of the regulation was conceived, the current global crisis and its impact on air travel could not have been foreseen.”
Second, they make a proportionality argument, stating that the EU has a greater goal to “preserve the structure of the European air traffic market beyond the current crisis.”
Finally, they make an economic argument, asserting that the use of vouchers instead of cash will “stimulate market recovery through flexibility of travel and enhancement of consumer trust in the long-term.”
<Forgive me while I pause to laugh about that last point…>
To that end, they propose the temporary suspension of cash refunds in lieu of vouchers. Vouchers can be converted to cash after the crisis if they remain unused. The nations, speaking on behalf of airlines, propose:
- transparent information to the passenger
- a common length of voucher validity
- maximum flexibility of use
- a clear right of reimbursement immediately at the end of validity in the event of non-use of vouchers
The 12 signatory nations include:
- Czech Republic
- the Netherlands
You can read the full letter here.
Will the EU Budge?
Thus far, both the United States and European Union have refused to loosen refund rules for cancelled flights. Even so, it is up to individual nations to enforce this rule and many of the above nations are the refusing to do so at this time.
This latest letter is about averting a possible lawsuit between the European Commission and member nations over EU261/2004 compliance. Sadly, it looks like the EC may be ready to cave. A spokesperson noted, “This is a very sensitive topic and the subject of very thorough debate,” and added that talking are ongoing to find a “workable European solution”. That implies the current solution (airlines must refund) is no longer viewed as a solution.
Any potential policy change will not only effect Europeans, but customers worldwide. If you are waiting for a refund on your cancelled ticket, just be prepared to wait a little longer…and potentially quite a bit longer.