Consumer protection: Commission and consumer authorities call on airlines to improve handling of flight cancellations

The Commission and national consumer authorities have called on airlines to improve how they deal with cancellations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Airlines operating in the EU are urged to improve their practices with the help of a list of measures drawn up by the Commission and the CPC network. This action follows a huge number of consumer complaints and is based on the results of a survey launched earlier this year to collect data on the handling of complaints by 16 major airlines. The analysis of the answers provided highlighted a range of issues. Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “We have received a lot of complaints from consumers but we have also worked closely with airlines to understand where there are shortfalls and why. Airlines need to respect the rights of consumers when flights are cancelled. Today we are asking for simple solutions to give consumers certainty after a period of extreme turmoil.” Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, said: “Strong passenger rights are a prerequisite for a thriving aviation sector. We are currently assessing regulatory options to reinforce passenger protections against future crises, as foreseen in our Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. We will continue to work with national authorities to have passengers’ rights properly communicated, implemented and enforced. Passengers must have a real choice between vouchers and refunds.” Airlines operating in the EU must respect EU consumer law – from ensuring transparent communication, to proactively informing passengers about their rights. In particular, they must provide a choice between a refund and a voucher and inform passengers that they have the right to exchange their vouchers for money at any time. Most airlines surveyed also did not refund passengers within the 7-day time limit provided for by EU law. They must take action to ensure that this delay is respected for all new bookings – whether bought directly or through an intermediary – and to swiftly absorb the backlog of pending reimbursements, by 1 September 2021 at the latest. More details, including the list of all measures requested from the airlines, are available here.