Greece together with 11 other EU member states is calling on the European Commission to revise its air passenger rights directive paving the way for the temporary issuance of vouchers in efforts to salvage air transport in the aftermath of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The 12 countries issued a joint statement on the manner on Wednesday requesting that the Commission update its Package Travel Directive (PTD) given the Covid-19 emergency that has forced grounded airlines to offer full refunds for canceled flights instead of vouchers for future travel.
“When the wording of the regulation was conceived, the current global crisis and its impact on air travel could not have been foreseen. The goal shared by the European Union and its member states must now be to preserve the structure of the European air traffic market beyond the current crisis, while considering the interests and necessary protection of passengers,” the statement reads.
Besides Greece, the governments of Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal have pushed for the amendment saying it “a matter of urgency” and urging consumers to accept vouchers instead of refunds with certain terms. They add that the temporary solution will both ensure airlines avoid collapse and consumers are adequately protected.
According to the joint statement issued after an EU transport ministers meeting on Wednesday, vouchers should be valid for a certain period of time and allow for reimbursement should these not be used before the expiry date. Protection should also be provided in the case of airline bankruptcies.
It should be noted, that airline companies are struggling to stay above water with major carriers such as Lufthansa and Air France-KLM seeking state aid due to the coronavirus outbreak which has brought all travel to a standstill.
According to media reports, Germany, Spain, Romania and Estonia have reportedly supported the call.
The issue of refunds over vouchers has causes a stir in Greece, which welcomes millions of travelers every the summer. Overwhelmed with complaints and questions over refunds for affected travel plans due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Greek consumer groups have called for the full implementation of the EU regulation stressing that accepting vouchers should only be an option for consumers.
The Athens-based consumer groups have been supported by the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA) and the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), which are urging the EU to resolve the issue repeatedly calling for more flexible reimbursement rules for package travel.
With the outbreak of Covid-19, the Commission encouraged customers to opt for vouchers instead of refunds and consider traveling at a later date in efforts to offset the potential losses for travel agents and operators resulting from mass cancelations due to the coronavirus health crisis.
Meanwhile, the Commission is also expected next week to issue a set of guidelines covering sanitary measures for all modes of transport to be enforced across the Union.