16 European airlines agree to faster passenger refunds for cancelled flights

Oct 5, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

You might be eligible for a faster refund if you had a flight canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After talks with the European Commission and Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC), a group of 16 European airlines finally agreed to clear their refund backlogs and only issue flight vouchers when passengers choose them over a cash refund. According to the Commission, many of these airlines’ refund backlogs are now cleared and that those due a refund will now be paid within 7 days, per EU law.

For TPG news and deals delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Airlines involved with the talks include Aegean Airlines, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, EasyJet, Eurowings, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Ryanair, TAP Portugal, Vueling and Wizz Air.

The airlines also agreed to better inform travellers when they cancel flights. The Commission notes that airlines now have to more clearly distinguish flights cancelled by the passenger and flights cancelled by the airline. In the case of flights cancelled by the airline, airlines must offer rerouting or a refund in cash and can offer a voucher option if they’d like.

Another interesting thing from the report: European passengers who book flights through an “intermediary” can now request refunds directly from the airline if they have trouble obtaining a refund from the intermediary. This should make getting refunded a lot easier when booking through an Online Travel Agency (OTA).

According to the Commission, this is the largest CPC action in the organisation’s history.

Related: I should not have accepted a Future Travel Voucher: TPG reader mistake story

Will this make it easier for me to get a refund for a cancelled flight?

It depends on where you’re flying to/from, and the airline you’re flying to your destination.

European Union Regulation (EC) 261/2004 on air passenger rights largely dictates when a traveller is subject to a refund or other compensation due to a flight cancellation or other mishap. This applies to nearly all intra-Europe flights regardless of carrier, and select flights to/from Europe.

Specifically, it covers flights starting in the EU or a flight operated by an EU carrier and all flights departing Europe, regardless of the carrier. An EU carrier is an airline headquartered in the EU. So, if you’re booked on an Air France flight from the U.S. to Europe and your flight is canceled, you should be eligible for a timely cash refund under these regulations. But if your flight is operated by United, you’re subject to U.S. regulations.

If you’re still awaiting a refund from an EU airline, it’s worth reaching out again and asking for a cash refund. Nowadays, it should come quickly after this CPC action.

Related: EU says that airlines must issue refunds for cancelled flights

Bottom line

This news is great for travellers waiting for refunds for cancelled European flights during the coronavirus pandemic.

Early in the pandemic, airlines canceled thousands of flights due to low demand and ongoing border closures. This left many travellers with flight vouchers instead of cash refunds, effectively locking up customer funds until travel reopened.

While airlines are required to refund passengers when the airline cancels flight, it’s often a long process that could lead to it taking months to get your money back. Requiring refunds to be processed within 7 days puts pressure on the airlines to actually follow through with refunds without dragging out the process.

Plus, these regulations can be good for the airlines too. When a customer knows they are eligible for a cash refund in case of a flight cancellation, they may be more likely to book airfare during these uncertain travel times.

Feature photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.