EU: ‘Voucher for canceled flight only valid when client agrees’
The Dutch Minister of Infrastructure, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (VVD), recently announced that clients of airline companies would get a voucher as compensation for a canceled flight due to the coronavirus. “That is to say, only when they agree with it,” says Adina Valean, the European Commissioner for Transport. “If a client does not agree with this compensation, he has the right to have his money refunded.”
The European passenger rights state that there are two options: traveler tickets have to be rebooked in case of a cancellation, or passengers have to get their money back within seven days. The Netherlands, however, wanted to get around this measure because there are hardly any alternative flights, and on top of that, most airlines are short of cash to refund all those tickets.
Van Nieuwenhuizen, therefore, stipulated as a condition that those vouchers should be valid for twelve months. And if not used before that time, clients still should get a refund.
The European Commission, however, analyzed the Dutch voucher compensation plan, and now states that “vouchers are only acceptable if the client agrees. If not, he has to get his money back”.
The Dutch consumer organization, Consumentenbond, was critical about the Minister’s compensation plan, anyhow. The organization indicates that passengers with a compensation voucher still come empty-handed when the airline goes bankrupt.
Loss of revenue
These are hard times for the aviation sector and tourism in general. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates the total loss at 252 billion dollars. With the crisis touching 98% of all worldwide passenger air traffic, the sector won’t be back on its feet before 2021.
The Belgian travel agencies estimate their loss of revenue until mid-April at two billion euros. “The travel sector is losing money on all fronts,” says Koen van den Bosch, top man of the association of Flemish Travel Agencies (Vereniging Vlaamse Reisbureaus, VVR). “There are no new bookings coming in, and it is impossible to recuperate costs. Airline companies are not paying back tickets, although they’re legally forced to, and even hoteliers won’t make a withdrawal.”