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.