Twelve European Union governments including Cyprus urged the EU executive on Wednesday to suspend rules forcing cash-drained airlines to offer full refunds for cancelled flights instead of vouchers for future travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airlines across Europe, including Lufthansa and Air France KLM, have sought state rescues as coronavirus lockdowns have forced them to ground their fleets for more than a month, with no end in sight.
Transport ministers of Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal have asked the European Commission for a temporary amendment to the rules.
In a joint statement, they said the bloc’s executive should propose the amendment as a matter of urgency. Consumers should be made to settle for vouchers instead of refunds with certain conditions.
Vouchers should be valid for a set length of time and should include the right for reimbursement if they are not used before then end of that period. Protection should also be provided in the case of airline bankruptcies.
The solution, the ministers said, would help airlines facing cash flow constraints while also allowing a common and adequate level of consumer protection.
The EU’s transport chief has previously said airlines must provide refunds for cancelled flights and can only offer vouchers if the passengers accept them instead.
The bloc’s transport ministers are due to meet by video link on Wednesday, along with counterparts from Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, to discuss how to coordinate the relaxation of travel restrictions as EU nations start reopening.