Infrastructure minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen has told MPs she would like to see EU countries guarantee the vouchers airlines have been handing out to passengers whose flights have been cancelled.
Under EU rules, airlines are supposed to refund the ticket price to passengers if their flight does not go ahead within seven days. But some airlines are only offering vouchers for future flights because of the impact of refunds on their finances.
Analysts, the minister said, estimate that Air France-KLM alone has €3bn in tickets sales that should be refunded on its books. British Airways, Easyjet, Ryanair and TUI are also extending vouchers rather than refunds, unless pressed.
This, Van Nieuwenhuizen told MPs, is why many countries, including the Netherlands, are turning a blind eye to the cash back requirement, even though the vouchers are only valid for a year and passengers could be left with nothing if the airline goes bust. ‘I have done this to protect the financial position of airlines,’ the minister said.
Nevertheless, the minister said she would like the aviation sector to make the vouchers as attractive as possible, by being more flexible about the conditions and allowing them to be transferred to other passengers.
Passengers who insist on a cash refund which is being refused by the airline have the option of going to court, the minister said.
In the long-term Van Nieuwenhuizen said she would like to see the development of a European fund which would pay out in times of crisis and would provide a permanent solution for the problem.
‘People may now be reluctant to book flights,’ she said. ‘This would strengthen their confidence by offering them more protection.’
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