Spain’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs has promised to take legal action against at least 17 airlines, over their customer refund practices following the Covid-19 outbreak. Included in those are the popular, budget airlines EasyJet and Ryanair.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs confirmed yesterday that they would file a formal complaint against at least 17 airlines, over their ‘deceptive’ business practices.
Both budget airlines are among others that have been highly criticised over the way they have continued to promote free flight transfers and vouchers for future flights, before offering cash refunds. The time taken to issue cash refunds to those who turned down transfers and vouchers has also come under scrutiny by many.
The government department is accusing the airlines of hiding information about customers ‘EU protected rights to have a full refund after flights are cancelled’.
As well as EasyJet and Ryanair, Air France, Air Europa, Binter Canarias, Eurowings, Iberia (Express and Air Nostrum), Jet2, KLM, Latam Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Transavia, TUI (Thomson Airlines), United Airlines, Volotea and Wizzair have all been named in the complaint.
The government department said legal action needed to take place to stop these airlines using this practice both ‘now and in the future’
It is also believed that the department will ask the courts to nullify all contracts that have seen some customers encouraged to accept vouchers, instead of being given a full cash refund by the airlines.
Economist Bibiana Medialdea, who was chosen by Consumer Minister Alberto Garzon as General Director of Consumer Affairs, told Spanish TV station La Sexta: "The European legislation is very clear”.
"When an airline cancels a flight, the customer has the right to receive a refund in the seven days after he or she requests it.
"At the moment we have ample evidence this right is not being able to be exercised.
"The airline has the right to offer a voucher but what is very clear in the European legislation is that the consumer has the last word.
"If the consumer prefers a cash refund, he or she should have an easy and flexible way of asking for it and the companies should send it in seven days”.
It is also understood that Spain’s Consumer Ministry will be seeking legal backing for a ‘Cease and Desist’ style order against the above-mentioned airlines.
Recently, Ryanair was named as the worst major airline when it came to giving British customers, who had had their flights cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, a refund. According to figures from the consumer group Which? more than eight out of ten customers are still waiting to get their money back.
They also found that 84% of Ryanair UK customers who were surveyed had not received their requested refund, compared to 19% at Jet2, 23% at British Airways.
A spokesperson for Ryanair said in a statement: “Ryanair has already processed 400 million Euros in refunds since mid-March, which is over one-third of the total backlog.
“We encourage customers to use their voucher or request a free move, as Ryanair has over 1,000 daily flights available from 1 July and has already released part of its summer 2021 schedule.
“All Ryanair customers on cancelled flights can still apply for a cash refund if they so wish”.
60% of EasyJet customers who were also surveyed by the consumer group, said they are also still waiting for their money back.
On EasyJet’s website, a refund request form begins with the words; “Many of our customers are choosing not to wait, instead opting for a flight voucher which can be automatically issued for the full value of your booking”.
Customers who have had their European flights cancelled are still being guided to a ‘Manage Booking’ section on the website which states 'Please select a new flight or request a voucher'.
“We are very sorry for the disruption to your flight and apologise for the inconvenience this will have caused you.”
The message continues to offer a transfer to other European EasyJet flights, at any other time and ‘For Free’. It also adds ‘Claim a voucher for the full value of your ticket. Valid for 12 months with the flexibility to book travel to anywhere when you’re ready to fly’
Continue looking further down the page and you will eventually get to the airline’s refund application form, but before you can fill it in a ‘pop-up’ appears with the message ‘Are you sure?’
UK Quarantine Law Come Into Force
As of today June 8, the Uk government has put into effect a 14-day quarantine on all international arrivals.
EasyJet PLC and Ryanair Holdings PLC along with British Airways (BA) have threatened to sue the UK Government over this policy, saying that the restrictions will be ineffective at stopping the spread of Covid-19 but will threaten thousands of jobs. They also said that it will wipe out tourism over the crucial summer season and destroy any hope of a quick recovery for the industry.
John Stirckland, director of JLS Consulting in London, who has also held senior positions at KLM and British Airways, said “Even those people who thought about going away on holiday in July and August are holding off from making bookings since nobody really knows how long the rules will last”.
“Being locked down at home for two weeks after a holiday is something that a lot of people can’t really afford to do.”
Most European countries are seeing a decline in Covid-19 infection levels now, and governments have been easing travel restrictions, with beaches opening in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece.
Airlines are trying to save the summer season when airports see tens of millions of people pass through their doors to fly off to their chosen holiday destination.
January 14, 2021