On April 21, 2020, the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad publishes an interview with Adina Vălean, the European Commissioner for transport. The newspaper asks her opinion about the Dutch government’s infringement of EU regulation 261/2004 concerning airline passengers’ rights. That is a relevant question, for the Dutch minister van Nieuwenhuizen tolerates that KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is breaking the regulation. Although the carrier has canceled flights, it refuses to pay refunds to passengers. Rather, it offers passengers only vouchers.
Refund or vouchers
The Commissioner responds by saying that the regulation is clear. “Passengers must be offered a choice between a refund in cash or another form of compensation. An airline can compensate a passenger through a voucher, but only if the passenger agrees.”
And she adds that carriers can stimulate their customers to accept a voucher. In Denmark, for example, they do so by adding to the voucher a guarantee against bankruptcy of the airline that offers the voucher. Vălean considers that a very good option, much better than infringing European legislation.
When the newspaper asks whether she will take action against the Netherlands, she says that the European Commission will certainly act against a policy that infringes European law. “But currently we are busy with the crisis. As soon as that will change, we will take action. That is why we have an infringement procedure. However, we hope that the Netherlands will come up with a better solution than running counter to European legislation.”
Vălean says that the measure has been taken too fast. She did tell minister van Nieuwenhuizen that the Commission can’t support this. The Commission has decided that it is not an option to amend the regulation by allowing vouchers without the passenger’s consent.
Thus, the regulation will remain intact. And she adds that the Dutch minister has promised to look at other solutions. ”I hope the Dutch policy will change. Even though this is a time of crisis, we shouldn’t violate passengers’ rights.”
Related: You decide: refund or voucher
Tags: passenger rights, EU regulation 261/2004, voucher, refund