Following dialogues with the Commission and national consumer authorities, 16 major airlines committed to better information and timely reimbursement of passengers in case of flight cancellations. Most airlines also committed to offering reimbursement for vouchers pushed onto passengers in the early phase of the pandemic. The commitments come after the Commission and national consumer authorities had called on airlines to improve how they deal with cancellations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 16 airlines are: Aegean Airlines, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Easyjet, Eurowings, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Ryanair, TAP, Vueling and Wizz Air.
Overview of airlines’ commitments
Following the dialogues, these are the commitments* made by the airlines:
- remaining reimbursement backlogs have been cleared in the vast majority of cases and passengers will be refunded within 7 days as required under EU law;
- passengers will be informed more clearly about their passenger rights in the event of a flight cancellation by an airline;
- airlines will give equal prominence on their websites, e-mails and other communication to passengers to the different options the passenger has in the event of a flight cancellation by the airline: rerouting, refund in money and – if offered by the airline – refund in a voucher;
- airlines will, in their communication to passengers, clearly distinguish flight cancellations by the airline (and the passenger’s ensuing statutory rights) from flight cancellations by the passenger (and possible contractual rights that the passenger may have in those cases under the airline’s terms and conditions of carriage);
- passengers can be given vouchers only if they expressly choose them. Unused vouchers that had been pushed on the passenger at the early stages of the pandemic can be reimbursed in money if the passenger so wishes (Iberia and Wizz Air did not commit to offering reimbursement in money to passengers holding vouchers that – according to the assessment by the CPC network – had been pushed on them);
- passengers who booked their flight through an intermediary and have difficulties getting reimbursement from the intermediary can turn to the airline and request to be refunded directly. Airlines are expected to inform passengers about this possibility and any conditions for requesting a direct refund on their websites.
*In light of applicable examinership and reconstruction schemes, the CPC network adapted the measures requested from Norwegian to the specific situation of that company.
The coordinated investigation of CPC authorities into airlines’ cancellation practices was triggered by an alert of the Commission in December 2020 based on information from various sources, including BEUC, the EU-level federation of consumer associations, and the French and Belgian consumer organisations UFC-Que Choisir and Test achats/Test aankoop.
In February 2021, the CPC network led by six coordinating authorities - Belgian FPS Economy, German Luftfahrt-Bundesamt, Greek Civil Aviation Authority, Italian Competition Authority, Spanish Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Swedish Consumer Agency - and assisted by the European Commission, sent a survey to the 16 airlines generating the highest numbers of complaints from consumers across the Union.
Following an evaluation of the replies received from the airlines, the Commission and the CPC Network then elaborated a list of measures and urged the airlines to improve their practices with the help of that list. The commitments proposed by the airlines to undertake relevant measures were discussed and finalised in individual dialogues during the months of August and September 2021.