In the wake of a pandemic, after grounding thousands of flights, airlines reassure their passengers that all the money already paid for their tickets to be refunded. But at the same time air carriers encourage them to rather reschedule their trip as now they can usually do a rebooking at no extra charge. But is it always that simple?
Even with an unprecedented attitude of solidarity with their clients, a lot of airlines still hide a hook of two. And that – not surprisingly – is especially true when the matter goes down to dealing with low-cost carriers. Most such airlines usually will require you to cover the price difference, when making a rebooking for a later date – even if your initial flight was cancelled.
The difference sometimes can be more than significant, as some airlines seem to have intentionally raised prices for those flights that are still scheduled for later days. So in such a situation, the passenger whose flight was grounded incurs even more costs.
Everyone also should be prepared to spend more time trying to reach representatives of airlines. In the wake of this crisis, almost all of them face a huge shortage of resources – especially in customer service departments. Therefore, only the biggest and well prepared ones can still ensure that these processes run smoothly.
Even some call centers are closed down
It is worth noting that by responding to their passengers not as fast as they are accustomed to or by delaying payouts, airlines generally do not violate any legal framework, as they often aren’t explicitly obliged to do so within a strict time frame. And in fear of a probably imminent cash shortage, most carriers offer travel vouchers instead of refunds – sometimes such solutions are even applied automatically to passengers already affected. And only with the explicit demand from their side other options are taken into consideration. The implementation of such options nowadays, however, can rarely be smooth.
As a result, airlines currently ask for patience for those passengers whose canceled journey was due to take place in a week or later. That’s because most of them are likely to process inquiries from those who have less than 72 hours left before their initial scheduled departure time. Some are already facing financial difficulties and have even reduced their capacity in customer service centers or shut down call lines altogether in order to save as much as possible.
What are my rights in the event of flight cancellation?
Of course, in the event of a canceled flight, most of us will recall the EU Regulation (EC) 261/2004, which defines passengers’ rights in the event of a delayed, canceled or overbooked flight. Until a few weeks ago, some airlines canceled flights on some routes, claiming that such a decision was taken due to reduced passenger flows rather than extraordinary circumstances. In such cases, those who booked a flight that was canceled could additionally be entitled to compensation from the airlines. However, now almost all flights are canceled due to exceptional circumstances for which no compensation is due.
It should be noted that according to Regulation EU 261/2004, passengers are not entitled to compensation for flights that have been canceled due to travel restrictions and lockdowns announced by certain countries to hold in the spread of COVID-19. It’s because the reason for such cancellation is a circumstance which is beyond the control of the airlines, so they are not obliged to pay compensation.”
A lot of patience should be the key
The experts also points out that the airline’s obligation to return all the money paid for the ticket isn’t in any doubt, but it would be useful to have a lot of patience, because the present situation is truly extraordinary. “Airlines must refund the full price paid to the passenger for the ticket,” says Sigitas Kačiušis, COO at Skycop.
“Of course, airlines often offer coupons, the value of which can be even higher than the price paid for the ticket or change of flight date. However, the coupon can only be used as a means of compensation with the consent of the passenger. At present, those wishing to get their ticket back should anticipate that they will have to wait a long time for a payout, as a large number of airlines are facing a liquidity crisis and are waiting for state aid. An extension of quarantine or lockdown in every country changes the plans of both airlines and travelers. Due to ongoing pandemic, flight cancellations can occur also in the summer, which will further increase the flow of requests. At this time, we would recommend using electronic means of communication if you need to contact the airlines. Trying to call airlines by phone, as it has been customary for some of us so far, can sometimes be pointless.” – points out Mr. Kačiušis.
Travellers can be left with only one option
Many European travelers are now facing a situation in which some airlines show no good will whatsoever. For example, Ryanair can only reschedule the passengers of a cancelled flight on the same route on a later date. In addition, if a fare difference occurs, it also should be paid.
“There is a lack of specific obligations in the legal framework as to how the refund or ticket exchange process should take place. For this reason, some airlines, especially low-cost ones, may find their ways to leave the passenger with only one choice. If there is no way to get your ticket back and the airline ignores your inquiries, the only way could be related to legal proceedings and eventually going to court. ”
We at Skycop are currently receiving a large number of inquiries and applications for compensation for disrupted flights, some of which, unfortunately, aren’t claimable because of abovementioned extraordinary circumstances. However, we assess each application individually and are always always ready to give the proper advice for all the passengers on their rights in one case or another or what they should do to minimize inconveniences which could eventually take place. Skycop also invites all the passengers to recall their past flights which were delayed by more than 3 hours, cancelled or overbooked and claim the compensation they are probably entitled to.