Portugal with 11 other EU countries asked the Commission for a temporary change in the rules for passengers with cancelled flights, giving them vouchers instead of cash refunds, due to the airlines’ difficulties.
In a joint statement presented to the EU executive, Portugal, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, France, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands and Poland argue that that “the pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on international transport, including air transport”.
For these countries, the European regulation to assist air passengers in the event of cancellation of flights is putting “airlines in a difficult situation, where they face a serious challenge in terms of liquidity”, as it allows clients to choose between cash refunds or vouchers.
The joint statement calls on “the European Commission to propose, as a matter of urgency, a temporary amendment to the regulation […] allowing airlines to choose the means of reimbursement for passengers”, considering that such a rule “would provide a solution to the airlines’ current liquidity constraints while preserving the competitiveness of European aviation”.
In its view, it would also involve “harmonised criteria for application at European level”, which would make it possible to draw up “a common and appropriate level of consumer protection”.
“We believe it is possible and acceptable for consumers to regulate the temporary issuing of vouchers if certain fundamental principles are taken into account” such as transparent information, non-discrimination, time limit and flexibility for use and the establishment of the right to a refund at the end of validity in the event of non-use of the vouchers, the statement says.
Last Tuesday, Transport Commissioner Adina Valean warned that although “some Member States are encouraging companies to opt for vouchers as an alternative to reimbursement, this is not compatible with EU rules”.
The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation estimates that the aviation sector in Europe will lose approximately 110 billion euros in 2020 due to the pandemic. Currently, between 3 to 4 thousand flights are being made each day in Europe, most of the freight. 20 to 30 thousand fewer than in the same period last year.