Air transport. 16 airlines commit to protect passengers in case of flight cancellations

On 30 September 2021, the European Commission announced that 16 major airlines have made several commitments to better inform and timely reimburse passengers in case of flight cancellations. These commitments follow a series of dialogues between the Commission, the national consumer protection authorities that are part of the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Network and the 16 airlines concerned. While there is no legal obligation stemming from the commitments made by the airlines, the CPC Network will continue to monitor whether the commitments are correctly implemented. 

The dialogue that lead to these commitments by the airlines commenced when the European Commission alerted the national consumer protection authorities in December 2020 about the difficult reimbursement conditions for consumers in case of flight cancellations. Following the alert, the national consumer protection authorities established a dialogue with the 16 airlines that were most frequently mentioned in consumer complaints, and this dialogue was concluded with the acceptance of a series of commitments by the airlines concerned. 

The commitments made by the airlines can be divided into those to provide clearer and more comprehensive information to consumers about flight cancellations and their rights, and those to ensure a timely reimbursement of passengers following the cancellation of their flight. 

As part of the better transparency commitments, the airlines pledged to inform passengers more clearly about their rights in the event of a flight cancellation, to adequately describe with equal prominence on their websites, e-mails and other communication to passengers the different options available to the passengers in case of flight cancellations, namely refund in money, refund in voucher or rerouting, and to clearly distinguish, in the communication with passengers, flight cancellations by the airline from flight cancellations by the passenger.

As concerns the commitments aimed at ensuring and facilitating the reimbursement of passengers, the airlines committed to refund passengers within 7 days as required under European Union law, to give vouchers to passengers only if they were expressly chosen by them, and to ensure that, whenever passengers experience difficulties in obtaining their reimbursement with the intermediary from whom they booked the flight, they can request to be directly refunded by the airline. 

The airlines involved are: Aegean Airlines, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Easyjet, Eurowings, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Ryanair, TAP, Vueling and Wizz Air. 

Andrea Palumbo