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European airlines pledge to refund costs of cancelled flight tickets in 7 days

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European airlines pledge to refund costs of cancelled flight tickets in 7 days
This picture taken on June 27, 2019 shows airplanes parked on the tarmac of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

Sixteen European airlines have agreed to reimburse passengers fully within seven days in the event of future flight cancellations and clear the backlog of refunds caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Commission has announced.

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After talks with the Commission, the airlines - including popular budget carriers Ryanair and easyJet - also agreed to better inform travellers when companies would cancel flights - and to only offer vouchers as an additional option for passengers.

The other European airlines that have signed up to fully comply with EU rules dating back to 2004 are Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Aegean Airlines, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, Iberia, Norwegian, TAP, Vueling and Wizz Air.

“In the early phase of the pandemic, some airlines pushed vouchers on passengers,” Didier Reynders, European commissioner for justice, said in a statement. “They were acting against EU consumer protection rules. That was unacceptable.

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“It is good news for consumers that airlines have cooperated (...) and are committed to respecting passenger rights and improving their communication.”

The Commission welcomed news that the most of the Covid-19 backlog of refunds ‘ha[s] been dealt with, and that all airlines concerned have undertaken to resolve remaining problems’.

The Bureau européen des unions de consommateurs (Beuc), which led the original complaint against the airlines to the EU in July 2020, called on the Commission and national authorities charged with enforcing EU consumer protection laws to ensure that these commitments are respected. 

The association’s director Monique Goyens said in a statement: “Airlines have breached European consumer rights on a massive scale during the pandemic.

“It’s time for airlines to clean up their act … Many consumers across Europe are still waiting for their money back, for flights cancelled during the first lockdowns in 2020.”

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