Airlines must give refunds – not just vouchers.
Both the the United States Department of Transportation and European Union have stated that airlines must provide passengers with a cash refund if their flight has been cancelled due to Covid-19.
However, don’t count on your money back just yet, as airlines have not been given a deadline to carry out this obligation.
During the first few weeks of the outbreak, airlines were focused on rebooking passengers travelling in the near future. However, with months of uncertainty ahead, this strategy has shifted to offering flight vouchers, as carriers struggle to stay afloat.
This has enraged customers around the world who feel they have involuntarily given ‘interest-free loans’ to the airlines.
The DOT ruled on Friday that airlines must provide a refund if a customer’s flight is cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The focus is not on whether the flight disruptions are within or outside the carrier’s control, but rather on the fact that the cancellation is through no fault of the passenger,” the DOT said.
Earlier this week, a Minnesota man filed a class action lawsuit seeking a refund from United Airlines for tickets that were to have been used in April.
Across the pond, the European Commission said that airlines that refuse refunds violates European Union law.
“The airlines have to offer passengers a choice between a reimbursement or a rerouting,” said a Commission spokesperson. “Passenger rights are protected by law in the European Union.”
Normal EU compensation rules, which entitle passengers to payments of up to €600 on top of their refund in the event of a cancellation, will not apply during this crisis due to exceptional circumstances.
However, the rules entitling passengers to a refund still do.