The information from the European Court of Auditors (TCE), concludes that “the rights of air transport passengers in the European Union remained on the ground during the pandemic” of Covid-19, namely in Portugal, due to successive cancellations and restrictions.

With regard to Portugal, data from the TCE reveal that, in 2020, 5.5 million tickets were cancelled by the main airlines operating in Portugal, affecting about “87 percent of passengers on flights to or from Portugal”.

Of the total cancelled tickets in Portugal, the TCE points out that close to 60 percent (3.3 million) were reimbursed to passengers during the year 2020.

However, another 28 percent (1.6 million tickets) were converted into vouchers for later use, “with no guarantee that passengers would agree”, while around 5 percent (more than 300,000 tickets) were unresolved by the end last year and almost 7 percent (360,000 tickets) were related to cases where passengers did not claim a refund or find a possibility of re-routing.

The latter concerned in particular, tickets from low-cost airlines, which, due to the low price, meant that passengers did not seek a solution.

With regard to the deadlines for refunding tickets in Portugal, the TCE points out that they varied depending on the airline, and “they increased exponentially after March 2020”, reaching a peak between June and September (between 31 and 59 days).

Between September and December these repayment deadlines “started gradually to return to normality”, the court points out.

Annemie Turtelboom, member of the court responsible for the report, said in an interview with Lusa news agency that, “in February 2021, airlines in Portugal reported that they were already refunding air tickets between two and 20 days after the cancellation” of the flights.

The data cited by the ECA in the report was transmitted by the National Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC) of Portugal, also taking into account interviews and surveys carried out with federations and associations, as well as information from the European Commission.

However, not all national authorities have provided data to the court, which according to Annemie Turtelboom means that “it is not possible to compare” countries.