Brussels taps the Netherlands on travel vouchers, but the customer remains empty-handed
European passenger law clearly states that a victim must be able to choose between a refund or a rebooking on a canceled flight. Now that rebooking has become virtually impossible, airlines and travel companies have come up with an alternative: the corona voucher. With this voucher, travelers can still travel at a later time.
In itself, there is nothing wrong with this voucher, according to the European Commission, only the consumer should get his money back if he refuses such a voucher. And there the shoe pinches. Airlines and travel organizations refuse to transfer that money. They emphasize that it is financially unfeasible to repay customers.
The tourism sector then fears a wave of bankruptcies. “In that case, the travel industry falls over and 20,000 people are on the street. Ultimately, the consumer still wants to go on holiday, ”says spokeswoman Mirjam Dresme of ANVR, the trade association of travel organizations.
Airline company Transavia finds it particularly disappointing that the European Commission has not looked at it from a broad perspective, ie from both the consumer and the sector. The airline acknowledges that passengers are entitled to rebooking or reimbursement of the ticket price under European law but stresses that the current situation is so exceptional – due to the great uncertainty about air transport and the large number of requests for reimbursement – that the airline feels compelled to cancel to deviate from its normal working method.
It is exactly the same with travel company Corendon. “The European Commission is formally right and we have been clear about it ourselves, yes what we do is against the law, but there is simply no other way,” adds CEO Steven van der Heijden. Much of the money that customers who have paid when booking a holiday have already been paid to hotels in exchange for, for example, early booking discount.
According to Van der Heijden, customers should not count themselves rich now. ,, That repayment will never ever happen. We just can’t afford it. ” Corendon has so far issued some 141,000 vouchers worth 60 million euros.
It is not clear how many vouchers were issued in total. It is also not known how large the total value of the issued coupons is. It is clear that these are significant amounts. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, hundreds of thousands of trips have been canceled. It would already cost Air France-KLM more than 3 billion euros if victims were to claim cash in large numbers.
European Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager understands that this creates a cash flow problem for airlines, but points out that consumers have also lost their jobs and can use the money. “We are sticking to EU law,” said the Vice-President. It is not clear exactly how she intends to do this.
Earlier today she spoke about the start of an infringement procedure against the Netherlands because of the corona vouchers, but the vice-president later returned. “It was my misconception about the status of the letter we are sending today. I’m sorry to have caused confusion. ” All 27 EU countries have a letter reminding them to comply with current passenger rights laws, she added.
Brussels did warn that if a Member State does not comply with the law, actions may follow, such as an infringement procedure. Such a procedure can be initiated if a Member State does not comply with European law and can lead to a fine or a case to the Court of Justice. The Consumentenbond finds the turnaround extremely unfortunate and thinks that this does no good for the image of Brussels.
According to the union, it will now be the minister’s turn, as the European Commission did make recommendations to make vouchers more attractive for victims. “It could be that the policy is adjusted in response to the recommendations, but we are not naive,” said a spokeswoman.
Aviclaim expects Dutch travelers who think they will get their money back from a cold fair. Claim Foundation founder Remco Kuilman takes into account that airlines and travel companies are trying to stick to the vouchers and expect not much to change. “Those who want their money back will have to start a procedure.”
Thousands of people have already registered with the claim foundation in a short time who still want to reclaim their money through a legal process. “What is happening here is illegal and the government is tolerating it. And that while hundreds of thousands of consumers have money outstanding with companies that they cannot reach, ”he adds.