16 airlines agree to refund cancelled flights within seven days
List includes EasyJet, Ryanair and British Airways. European Commission says customers must be treated fairly and know their rights after Covid-related travel restrictions leave people out of pocket
Both KLM and Air France are among the airlines promising to change their ways. Pic: hans engbers / Shutterstock
Sixteen airlines have committed themselves to refunding customers for cancelled flights within seven days under EU legislation.
The European Commission and national consumer protection authorities were involved back in February, following a complaint from the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC).
"Many customers in Europe are still waiting to get their money back for flights cancelled during the first lockdowns of 2020," said BEUC Director General Monique Goyens.
Reluctance to refund
The travel industry was hard hit by the pandemic and with planes grounded, airlines hit the headlines for their reluctance to refund tickets due to Covid-related travel restrictions.
In some cases, customers were offered a voucher they could use to book another flight with the airline, when they should have had the option of a refund.
"The [national consumer protection] authorities must ensure that all customers forced to accept credit notes are reimbursed, and take enforcement action if necessary," Ms Goyens added.
All 16 airlines have agreed to ensure that customers are better informed of their rights in the event that their flights are cancelled.
This means presenting customers with all the alternative options available to them, whether that means changing their flight, arranging for a refund or a credit note.
The 16 airlines are:
"It’s good news for consumers that the airlines have cooperated (...) and committed themselves to respecting passengers' rights and improving communication," said European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders in a statement.
What are the rights for European airline travellers?
Cancelled flights are those that were initially scheduled, but did not take off and on which at least one seat was booked.
Airlines must give passengers the choice of either refunding their ticket within seven days for the part not flown (as well as the part flown, but no longer required), or rerouting them to their final destination in similar conditions.
If the latter option is chosen, the airline must foot the bill for food and accommodation until the passenger arrives at their final destination.
However, if the passenger chooses to be refunded instead, the airline has no obligation to pay for food or accommodation.
In both cases, the airline must also pay you a lump sum in compensation. See the official government website for more information about your rights.