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12 Countries ask vouchers instead of refunds


Twelve EU member countries have asked the EU Commission to allow airlines to issue vouchers instead of the refunds mandated by EU law as a way of keeping airlines from collapsing under the weight of the virus crisis, which has cut business to nearly nothing.

Transport ministers of Portugal, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cypress, Czech Republic, Greece, France, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands and Poland told the EU's highest executive body that “the pandemic (has) had an unprecedented impact in international transport, including air transport" because EU's rules require quick refunds when flights are cancelled, but the airlines do not have enough cash to make them.

Their request is that, for now, the airlines be allowed to choose whether to give a refund or a long-lasting voucher for the value as a way of keeping the airlines alive without permanent loss for passengers. The request came as a response to a warning from the EU Transport Commissioner who warned that "some Member States are encouraging companies to opt for 'vouchers' as an alternative to reimbursement, this is not compatible with EU rules."

A number of airlines, including Ryanair, one of Europe's largest, have taken things into their own hands by simply making refund processing take so long that some customers have agreed to vouchers instead.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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I have said it before and certainly have not changed my mind: why do airlines think they are above the law? There are plenty of other businesses suffering severely at present, but they do not have the option of hanging on to their customers' cash to keep themselves afloat. The way in which airlines have behaved over this issue is simply disgraceful and will have done nothing to engender goodwill amongst their customers. Indeed, many might - at a stroke - have destroyed the benefits of their marketing campaigns for years to come. British Airways was never one of my top choices, but after my experience with them in the present situation they will be at the bottom of the list in future. My refund is in the bank, incidentally, but I have not yet finished with them ...

In a conversation with Travel Rob last week, I set out my minimum conditions before a bailout or other relief can be discussed:

1) All boarding to be by efficiency, no priority for anyone except physical need

2) minimum one free checked bag for all flights over 250 miles (under 250, you should drive or take a train, anyway)

3) elimination of most nuisance fees

4) minimum 32" pitch with no more than 2" recline

5) 20-year cap on exec salaries...CEO to earn max 20x full-time flight attendant pay.

Ready to talk, airlines? That's just the non-negotiables. Oh, and NEVER bring me coffee in a styrofoam cup again.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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