No compensation for passengers with flights cancelled 14 days before

in News · 18-03-2020 15:02:00 · 0 Comments

Passengers from the European Union (EU) with flights cancelled up to two weeks before departure due to the Covid-19 outbreak are not entitled to compensation under Community law, as this pandemic is equivalent to extraordinary circumstances.

"The Commission considers that, when national authorities adopt measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, these measures are of an extraordinary nature and origin to the normal exercise of the activity of [air] carriers and are beyond its control", the community executive argues in guidelines released on 18 March regarding the rights of passengers and carriers in a time of pandemic.

These guidelines also serve to mitigate the economic impacts of the outbreak of the new coronavirus, so the community executive clarifies that, with regard to the aviation sector, the current circumstances fall under the description “extraordinary”, which means that certain rights - such as compensation for a flight cancelled two weeks before the departure date - “cannot be claimed”.

Thus, in situations such as travel restrictions imposed by countries and border closures, air carriers that cancel their travel 14 days or more in advance are not obliged to compensate passengers.

If the flights are not cancelled with such advance and, even so, they are not operated or are made with delay, the indemnities remain and can reach 600 Euros, depending on the distance, origin and destination.

Generally speaking, passengers with travels cancelled due to the outbreak are entitled to request a refund or referral to their final destination and, if they are the ones to cancel, they should receive a voucher.

“If passengers see their trip cancelled, they can choose between refunding the ticket price or re-routing to reach their final destination”, as soon as possible and through another mode of transport, informs the community executive.

At a time when travel (notably air travel, but also travel by train, bus and sea) is being severely affected by the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Brussels indicates that if passengers decide to cancel their travels themselves, "Refunds depend on the type of ticket - if it is refundable, if it is possible to reschedule - as specified in the carrier's terms and conditions".

Still, "some airlines are offering 'vouchers' to passengers, who do not want (or are not allowed to) travel as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak," stresses Brussels in the document, adding that passengers will be able to use these vouchers “For another trip with the same carrier within an established period”.

For all modes of transport, Brussels recalls the right that passengers have to be informed about changes in their travels, as well as assistance (meals and accommodation) in certain situations.

“Passengers and the European transport industry are being hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak. […] The situation is worrying for many passengers, whose trips have been cancelled and who do not want or can no longer travel”, the Commission also observes.

The aviation sector has already said that this will be an "unprecedented crisis" for aviation companies, with losses amounting to billions of Euros.

A week ago, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen announced measures to support the sector.

These are temporary changes in the regulation of airport slots - the slots allocated to airlines for landing or taking off -, which allow carriers to maintain the 'slots' even if they do not operate flights, thus ending the phantom operations.


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