In case of flight cancelation, airlines must offer passengers 2 choices under EU regulation 261/2004. First, re-routing to their final destination under comparable transport conditions and at the earliest opportunity. This may also occur at a later date at the passenger’s convenience. The other option is reimbursement within 7 days of the full cost of the ticket. This applies to all passengers departing from an EU airport.
Currently, carriers are short of cash and may have issues with reimbursement. Therefore, the Dutch minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (infrastructure and water management) doesn’t want the reimbursement obligation to be enforced for a year.
Enforcement is a duty of the department’s Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT). On March 25, 2020, Van Nieuwenhuizen instructed the ILT “not to enforce the obligation to reimburse” as laid down in the EU regulation. Thus, she assumes that an EU-state is authorized to postpone the enforcement of EU regulations.
No longer filing complaints
Until 2019, individual passengers could file complaints about airlines with the ILT. For example, if they deny compensation in case of a delay. But after the Council of State passed a judgment, the ILT no longer accepts this kind of complaints from 2019. Passengers now need to go to court.
This court procedure may take a long time and runs into a lot of money. Thus, it cannot be expected that many passengers will opt for this line of action. Therefore, we are not optimistic about reimbursements by airlines. Neither is the Dutch Consumer Association’s director, Sandra Molenaar.
She emphasizes that the regulator has a legal obligation to test carriers’ behavior to the EU regulation and to impose sanctions in case of violations. The ILT is still included in the European list of national regulators.
License not to reimburse
Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen’s decision will probably have the effect of a license for airlines not to reimburse passengers. A reader wrote us this week that he called KLM Royal Dutch Airlines about a trip of which the last leg has been canceled. That is the flight back home. The KLM agent tells him to forget about reimbursement. KLM doesn’t do that. He should be happy with a voucher – now with minister Van Nieuwenhuizen’s blessing.
Tags: flight cancelation, reimbursement, voucher, EU Regulation