Airlines in Europe have failed to protect the rights of passengers during the Covid-19 pandemic, including not offering refunds, said the European Court of Auditors (ECA) this week.
In its report released on Tuesday, the ECA confirmed that many airlines are not refunding customers despite having be awarded 25 billion euros in direct state aid and being legally bound to.
Travel and tourism stakeholders including Eu travel tech and the European Travel Agents and Tour Operators Association (ECTAA) have repeatedly raised the issue calling on the European Commission to take action.
The industry said airlines’ actions are “to the detriment of the entire travel ecosystem and customers alike”.
“Many airlines have repeatedly failed to comply with their obligation to refund customers in a timely manner (seven days) or imposed vouchers in lieu of refunds, either directly or via their travel agents,” the groups claim.
“Airlines not refunding as required by the air passenger rights regulation is damaging for consumers across Europe. At the same time companies through which tickets are sold are massively hurt financially as well,” said ECTAA Secretary General Eric Drésin.
Meanwhile, in response to the ECA report, non-profit trade association European Regions Airline Association (ERA) said the findings lead to “an unfair representation of European airlines”.
According to the ERA, most airlines, particularly small to medium-sized carriers, have not received any state aid during the pandemic but still went ahead and refunded passenger tickets in accordance with the law while encouraging the use of vouchers due to their shortage of cash.
The airline association goes on to stress that airlines which received state aid and should have provided passenger compensation but failed to do so, should be named “instead of unfairly making a generalization that all airlines are guilty of not complying with their passenger rights obligations”.
“This special report by the ECA is an unfair representation of European airlines and casts blanketed aspersions on an industry already extremely damaged by the COVID crisis,” said Montserrat Barriga, ERA director general.
“Many airlines continue to work tirelessly to survive whilst reorganizing their fleet, staff and operations, and whilst having to still adapt to extremely low revenue levels,” she added.