EU shamed over failure to enforce OWN laws as airlines refuse to refund customers

EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean was challenged over the European Union’s failure to ensure airlines across member states comply with refund laws during the coronavirus. Passengers across the bloc have denounced the struggle to get their flights and package holidays reimbursed after widespread cancellations during the coronavirus pandemic. Following demands from a Dutch traveller for the EU to intervene, Euronews host Oliver Miocic confronted Mrs Valean over the “discord” among member states on the issue of flight reimbursement.

Mr Miocic said: “She says she’s hoping the EU will step up.

“Earlier on you were saying customers need to go to their national governments.

“You’ve got government such as the Netherlands, you’ve got Germany saying, ‘actually, the airline should be able to keep hold of the money.

“You’ve got a huge discord between what the national governments are saying and what EU law states in principle.

“Have you spoken to these Transport Ministers of each country to reaffirm that EU law should be the principal law here?”

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Commissioner Valean insisted she is in constant communication with Transport Ministers from the EU27 and said Brussels will intervene should airlines be found to be breaking EU law.

She said: “Yes, of course, we speak all the time. And we have a council of transport ministers and I expect this topic to be very high on the agenda.

“I know these governments are requesting permission to change the law, it is not an option for me. I don’t think this is the right path.

“I think they have to put their energies into making the vouchers more attractive if they want to use mainly this instrument but allow the passengers to exercise their right to be reimbursed.”

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Mrs Valean added: “We are talking about this kind of issue with ministers and we will take action if European law is infringed by a member state.”

Airlines across the European Union have been offering disgruntled passengers the option to reschedule their holidays and flights to a later date or to accept a voucher to use for a limited period of time to book a new flight.

Under EU Law, which still applies in the UK until December 31, passengers are also entitled to obtain a full refund if their plans are cancelled within seven days of their request.

Some companies however have been warning customers the time required to process all the requests they have been receiving could see some people get their money back after a year.

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Despite securing a €7billion (£6billion) loan, Air France has warned passengers their compensation will not get to them until 2021.

A spokesman for Air France said: “Given the lack of visibility regarding the date on which an even moderate recovery in operations may occur, Air France is currently maintaining its policy of deferred refunds of airline tickets cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.”

KLM, a partner of Air France, has adopted the same policy after being offered a €4billon (£3billion) bailout from the Dutch Government.

The British Government gave EasyJet a €686million (£597million) bailout earlier in the month and have been advising customers they can secure a refund by calling their support line.

But passengers have complained about the long waiting time to speak to an adviser for the company.

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