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Cancelled trips : refund or vouchers ? The EU wants to leave the choice

The airlines would have preferred to be confined only to the right to purchase or a deferred payment. The european Commission, anxious to protect the consumers

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Cancelled trips : refund or vouchers ? The EU wants to leave the choice

The airlines would have preferred to be confined only to the right to purchase or a deferred payment.

The european Commission, anxious to protect the consumers of the EU, has defended Wednesday the right to repay in cash the cancelled trips because of the pandemic, a bitter disappointment to the airlines. According to the recommendations of Brussels, the refund must remain the rule in respect of travel or cancelled flights, but the system of purchase should be encouraged in order to support the tourism sector.

The subject of debate for the last several weeks, while cancellations in the cascade related to the health measures against pandemic coronavirus have immersed consumers in the face of uncertainty. At the end of April, twelve european countries, including France, had asked the european Commission to suspend the requirement for airlines to reimburse passengers whose trips have been cancelled because of the sars coronavirus.

The reimbursement is still the rule

"We want to encourage citizens to opt for the system of vouchers to help airlines and the transport sector currently going through a very difficult," said Adina Valean during a press conference. The european commissioner for Transport, was speaking on the occasion of the publication of recommendations to member States to support the tourism sector, the pandemic has resulted in a critical situation.

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The european legislation provides that in the event of cancellation, the passenger must be offered a new route, or a refund. This latter is the rule, and may take the form of a credit, but only with the agreement of the consumer, remember Brussels. However, the Commission publishes in parallel a long recommendation to "make the right to claim on the travel, an attractive alternative to cash refunds for consumers."

For example, member States can offer to ensure the solvency of the warrants, as is already the case in Denmark. The issuers may also ensure that the vouchers are refundable in the following year. Or even introduce more flexibility, in terms of services offered, opportunities to book with other entities of the same group or to transfer the voucher to another person, suggests the Commission.

airlines disappointed

These proposals were not welcomed by the airlines who were deemed "disappointing and misleading". "If the passengers have the clear right to be reimbursed for their ticket, we believe that the good-refundable, or a deferred repayment, represent a compromise that is fair and reasonable given the constraints of liquidity, without precedent, to which the airlines are currently facing," responded Thomas Reynaert, director-general of the A4E, the main association of european airlines, quoted in a press release.

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The airlines plead for amend "emergency" in the eu legislation. According to A4E, the airlines are facing cash refunds "that can reach 9.2 billion euros until the end of may, due to a regulation that has never been designed to cope with cancellations mass caused by a global pandemic". The european Bureau of consumers (BEUC) has welcomed the Commission's approach, in particular the appeal to member countries to guarantee the right against insolvency.

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"This protection is a prerequisite for the promotion of coupons and their transformation into a safe and dependable option for consumers", says the association. The commissioner Valean, with his colleague in charge of consumer protection, mr Didier Reynders, has sent a letter to all the member States to promote these solutions. "In a first time, I send this letter of explanation (...) and then we'll see if he has any concrete cases of infringements of the legislation", relating to refusal of refund she promised.

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