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Airlines must offer a cash refund for your cancelled flights, says the EU

New guidance says customers are entitled to a full refund – not just a voucher or credit

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

If you’ve had to call off a holiday over the past couple of months, you may well have found getting your money back a bit of a pain. All over the world, cash-strapped airlines have made it increasingly hard to ask for refunds for cancelled flights – and some have even refused outright, offering only vouchers.

In early April, the US Department of Transportation announced it would require all carriers to give passengers their money back. And happily for EU citizens, the European Commission has now waded in too – saying refunds must be issued for all cancelled flights in and out of European airports.

In recent weeks, airlines have taken to offering passengers vouchers to spend on future flights rather than offering cash refunds. Simply requesting a refund (letting alone receiving one) has in many cases become a complicated process. Meanwhile, lobbying groups have been pressuring the EU’s executive body to ease passenger rights over concerns the aviation industry could collapse over the coming months.

The European Commission is now to write a letter to all EU member states reminding them that airlines should be sanctioned if they violate passenger rights – including by refusing to offer refunds. An EU official said: ‘The law is clear. Passengers should be able to choose between a cash refund or other funds of reimbursement such as a voucher.

‘We are addressing a letter to all member states to ensure that the passenger rights regulations are applied, and that practices in violation of such rules are detected timely and also effectively sanctioned.’

The commission spokesperson insisted that rules would not change to relieve struggling airlines, and added that if vouchers were offered as an alternative to refunds, the expiry dates should be extended to make them more appealing to customers.

As we’ve pointed out in our guide to airline refunds, it’s well worth opting for a refund over a voucher, because in the event the airline goes bust before you fly, they’ll become worthless and you won’t be getting your money back. So get on the phone, remind the airline of your rights – and start saving up for that eventual post-lockdown getaway.

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