In a joint statement presented today to the community executive, to which the Lusa agency had access, Portugal, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, France, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands and Poland stress that “the pandemic had an unprecedented impact in international transport, including air transport ”.
"Flights have been cancelled and air carriers no longer have a passenger business, but they continue to incur high operating costs," they note in the statement released at the meeting of EU Transport Ministers, which took place this afternoon.
For these 12 Member States, the European regulation establishing common rules to assist air passengers in the event of flight cancellations is putting “airlines in a difficult situation, where they are faced with a serious challenge in terms of liquidity ”, since it determines the obligation for companies to choose between cash refunds or 'vouchers' for future use.
Thus, those countries call on “the European Commission to urgently propose a temporary amendment of the regulation, […] that allows airlines to choose the means of reimbursing passengers”, considering that this measure “would constitute a solution to the current liquidity restrictions. airlines, while preserving the competitiveness of European aviation ”.
In his view, “harmonized criteria for application on a European scale” would also be involved, which would make it possible to draw “a common and adequate level of consumer protection”.
“We believe that it is possible and acceptable for consumers to regulate the temporary issuance of 'vouchers', if some fundamental principles are taken into account” such as transparent information, non-discrimination, time and flexibility for use and the establishment of the right to refund at the end of the validity in case of not using the coupons, they also point out.
On Tuesday, European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean warned that while "some Member States are encouraging companies to opt for 'vouchers' as an alternative to reimbursement, this is not compatible with EU rules".
With the EU's external and internal borders practically closed due to the restrictive measures adopted to contain the spread of covid-19, the aviation sector is being one of the most affected, with operational losses reaching 90%.
The European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) has already estimated that the European aviation sector will lose 110 billion euros this year due to the covid-19 pandemic, among airlines, airports and service providers.
Also according to Eurocontrol, on average, about 3,000 to 4,000 flights are being made every day in Europe, most of which are cargo, and the equivalent of 20 to 30 thousand less than in the same period of 2019.
At today's meeting of those responsible for the EU's transport sector, which took place by videoconference and in which Portugal was represented by the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing, Pedro Nuno Santos, the “need for a coordinated EU approach to restore the connectivity and mobility ”.
For this reason, European ministers asked Brussels for “urgent specific sectoral guidelines” for the gradual abolition of containment measures, according to a statement from the EU Council.