The “encouragement” of Brussels, as defined by the Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean, addressed to the 27 countries in order to respect consumers’ rights to the economic reimbursement of flights canceled in the context of the coronavirus, remained a dead letter for most of the Member States. After the expiry of the two weeks granted to governments to respond to the European Commission, the spokesmen for the EU executive this morning announced that only 12 out of 27 countries they replied in Brussels. The neglect of many national governments not only in enforcing the rules, but also in offering an explanation for the lack of reaction towards the companies, adds to today’s decision of two other European ‘big’ air transport companies, which have chosen to go in the opposite direction to that desired by the Commission.
The right to a refund
Alitalia and EasyJet, among the few that still paid refunds on the price of canceled trips, have made it known to want to opt for alternative compensation through the so-called vouchers. The travel voucher, according to European regulation 261 of 2004, should be used as an alternative option to the financial reimbursement of the amount paid by the customer for a trip then canceled by the company. But the European standard gives the customer the choice whether to be reimbursed with the sum or with a voucher and the airline – at least in theory – you have to adapt to the customer’s decision.
The “Cura Italia” decree targeted by the EU
Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, already in March, many passengers have been denied this right. To the calls by the Commission, the States have often responded with measures clearly contrary to the Community rules and approved to meet the need for liquidity of airlines, already affected by an unprecedented crisis, which has reduced traffic between airports by over 90%. Among the laws that ended up in the Brussels viewfinder there is also’Article 88 bis of the decree” Cura Italia”Which gives companies the option to refund travel cancellations with a simple one-year voucher.
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Europe takes time
Given this rule, Italy is part of the 13 recipient countries of the warning letters, which would precede the opening of a real infringement procedure. The other 14 states that have not approved similar regulations contrary to EU law have however received the “encouragement” from the Commission to enforce the rules. Italy is among the countries that responded to the EU executive. The other countries that have offered explanations or reassurances to Brussels are: Spain, Belgium, Croatia, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. “The Commission will not hesitate to take the necessary measures”, but “first of all we need to have the complete picture”, the spokesmen explain. To understand the intentions of Brussels it will therefore be necessary wait again.