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European Union Says Flight Refund Policy Isn’t Vague: You’re Owed Cash

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European Union Says Flight Refund Policy Isn't Vague: You're Owed Cash

European Union Says Flight Refund Policy Isn’t Vague: You’re Owed Cash

This week, the European Union reiterated that laws around the flight refund policy still require airlines to offer you a cash refund. Despite the numerous, ongoing issues with COVID-19, that doesn’t mean airlines can force you to take a voucher. Here’s an update for anyone facing a cancellation of flights and wondering what the flight refund policy is during this pandemic.

EU Flight Refund Policy

Under European laws, if your flight is canceled, the airline must offer you a cash refund. During this pandemic, airlines are desperate to hold onto their cash. Everyone wants a refund, and it’s rough having to give away all of your money. Thus, airlines were only giving out vouchers for future travel. In some instances (looking at you, Air France) they were really sticking it to the customers.

This week, EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean said that forcing customers to take vouchers is illegal. Coronavirus be damned, this situation hasn’t changed the law. Thus, the airlines are still required to give you a cash refund if you want it. They can OFFER you a voucher, but you must also have the option of a cash refund. You can choose a voucher, but the key point here is that you must be given the option of a cash refund.

Following Similar Events in the U.S.

This follows a similar statement from the U.S. Department of Transportation. After airlines in the U.S. were forcing people to take vouchers and denying cash refunds, the DOT stepped in. Cancelled flight = you have the right to a cash refund. This event has not changed the flight refund policy / applicable laws.

Final Thoughts

If an airline previously forced you to take a voucher, it’s worth re-engaging the airline. Point out that the appropriate legal entities have weighed in and said that the airlines must offer you a refund. They can’t force you to take a voucher if you don’t want it. If they told you “only a voucher”, point out that this isn’t legal. Work with the airline to exercise your rights. This is a tough time for everyone, and I completely understand that the airlines don’t want to empty their bank accounts to refund cash to everyone. However, what they want to do and what the law says here aren’t the same.

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Ryan Smith
Ryan Smith
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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  1. I’ve sent this to both TAP Portugal and Air France and both responded and neither will budge and give me a refund, despite them cancelling my flights. Ugh.

    • I’d keep at it. It’s the law. If they don’t comply, file an official complaint with the EU transportation people.

  2. Delta are imposing a 50% cancellation fee for flights (from Japan which has closed it’s border) in May. It’s usuarious and unethical. As it was to be 1 leg of several parts the voucher to be be used by 31 December this year is worthless!

      • They expect everything will be normal by mid May so standard cancellations are being used for May flights. We will try again early May to see if the whole flight is cancelled so under the USA version of the Frustrated Contracts Act they will offer either a full credit or a voucher that has a longer shelf life than December 31 2020.

        • OK since the flight is still “scheduled” at this time, you have to take what they’re offering. Once it gets cancelled (or if Japan extends the “you can’t come in” rules to you past the flight date), then you have some teeth in your argument for a refund.

  3. British Airways will give cash but with a heavy penalty. It’s not right. Any ideas on how to handle this situation?

    • I’ve yet to see anything that says they can force you to take a voucher because you used miles. This should still apply, because “the law is still the law” is the point here. The law says a canceled flight means you get a full refund.

  4. I wish there was more teeth to the law, for example if more than x number of people file complaints with the DOT, no bailout for the airline.


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