Preferential treatment of US customers


Full refund?For US customers KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has considerably more favorable rebook and cancelation policies than for other customers. The carrier offers US customers who saw their flights canceled not only a travel voucher. Alternatively, they can now get a full refund in cash if one of the following conditions applies. KLM has canceled the flight or delayed it by more than 3 hours. What’s more, US customers can apply for the refund online.

Travel voucher

Other customers can only apply for a travel voucher, which comes with the following drawbacks. It will expire after a year, you may misplace it, you may forget, it is only valid on KLM. It may be extra tough on you if you find or remember the voucher after it already has expired.

KLM’s favorable treatment of US customers is thanks to the enforcement notice the US Department of Transportation (DOT) issued on April 3, 2020. This notice reminds airlines to their obligations if they cancel or significantly delay a flight for whatever reason. In those cases they must offer the passengers 2 options: a refund or a travel voucher. Passengers can choose the option they like most.

KLM aircraft at Amsterdam Schiphol AirportFines for airlines

Sometimes the DOT imposes low fines on carriers. But the DOT may also impose high fines if they observe major infringements of the rules. Therefore, it seems that KLM has calculated that the benefit of offering vouchers only wouldn’t offset the expected high fine.

US customers who already received a voucher now have the choice to keep it or to apply for a full refund instead. Most likely they will opt for a full refund. In that case they need to submit a new refund request. As it happens, KLM claims they are missing the customers’ payment details.

Full refund

When you opt for the newly offered full refund you don’t need to worry about the travel voucher you already received. KLM will automatically cancel it.

KLM window cleaningThe way KLM deals with US customers is very different compared to non-US customers. The latter don’t get a choice and must accept a travel voucher. In the Netherlands this is not just a matter of a toothless watchdog, the Dutch Department of Infrastructure and the Environment. It is worse: the Dutch government will not enforce the EU regulation that requires a choice for passengers. Thus, the government legitimates KLM’s civil disobedience.

Non-US customers

Thus, non-US customers will need to accept a travel voucher. However, Dutch customers can keep the voucher rather than use it. If they still haven’t used it after one year, KLM must pay them a full refund. You will need to submit a new request for a refund in cash. But KLM doesn’t have the reputation it will be happy to honor that.

Related: Money back or a voucher? and You decide: refund or voucher

Tags: refund in cash, voucher, enforcement notice, toothless watchdog


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