Airlines have been hit hard due to the recent covid-19 outbreak. Some have reduced the number of flights, some temporarily stopped operations altogether, and many travellers have cancelled tickets.
Some of the affected airlines are Air France, Lufthansa Group, Ryanair and easyJet. According to GIVT, a company that seeks compensation from airlines for delayed and cancelled flights, many airlines in the current crisis have ignored passenger demands.
It claims that, instead of cash refunds for unused tickets, airlines offered a choice of free date changes or vouchers for other flights
Kamila Szczygieł, attorney at law GIVT, said the cancelling of flights due to coronavirus does not justify airlines avoiding passenger rights.
“Even though pandemics are extraordinary circumstances exempting airlines from flight compensation liability under Regulation (EU) 261/2004, passengers have the right to choose at their discretion a full ticket refund, a change of travel dates or a voucher for future flights, as stated by the European Commission on March 18th,” said Szczygieł.
GIVT stated that passengers can choose how they wish to receive compensation from airlines.
The company believes that many airlines ignored refund requests and disregarded passengers' rights, forcing customers to opt for a change of dates or a voucher. GIVT said, in addition to this, passengers may also experience extended hotline waiting times, Facebook chat, with no response, chat inactive during supposed hours of service and problems with sending completed ticked refund applications on specific airline’s websites.
It claimed that some airlines swindled customers forced to rebook their flights, hiding additional fees of up to £80 (R1591) in changes. GIVT said the same rules applied for travel agents.
The company revealed in a statement: “It revealed that if you do not have insurance, travellers could contact the operating airline directly to seek a refund. However, customers may be refused a refund and offered a voucher or change of travel dates instead. This is aimed at helping the travel industry minimise losses.
“Another possibility is to request a chargeback at your bank, where the bank can dispute your transaction with the merchant, to try and get your money back. You must tell the bank what you paid for, why the merchant is not refunding you and what the terms and conditions of the purchase were. GIVT launched an online service on March 24 for effective cost recovery of unused paid for tickets.