Why do Singaporeans complain about underpaid?

Coronavirus: When do airlines have to reimburse the full flight price?

The corona virus is currently bringing global air traffic to a standstill. More and more airlines are temporarily suspending their flight operations or canceling their flight schedules extremely. Anyone who has planned a flight within the next few weeks has already been or will probably be informed of the cancellation in the next few days.

Does the airline then have to reimburse the full price of the flight or is it only allowed to reimburse the price paid in the form of a voucher?

We have revised the article again and answered many of your questions in the comments (over 800 in number). Before you describe your case as a comment, we ask you to read the article carefully, including the frequently asked questions, and only then write a comment.

If you are happy to help & voluntarily, we would be happy if we could welcome you as a supporter in return.

In principle, a reimbursement should only be considered if the flight has been canceled by the airline or the booked tariff explicitly provides for a reimbursement. This is usually only possible with very expensive tickets, which is why we will concentrate in this article on the case that the Airline canceled at least one flight on the ticket or has canceled.

If this does not apply to your booking, many airlines are currently offering free rebooking:

tip: If your flight has not yet been canceled, it is advisable to wait. The rebooking is also possible shortly before or, for example, with Lufthansa even after the flight date.

Please note that we do not offer legal advice. We try to summarize the most important points and give a personal opinion based on our experience.

Reimbursement according to EU passenger rights

Actually, the legal situation in this case is pretty clear: is it ...

  • an airline based in the European Union or
  • if the flight starts in a member state of the European Union

... the airline has to tell you according to Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 Article 8Entitlement to reimbursement or other transportation offer the choice between the following options:

  1. Return flight to the first place of departure at the earliest possible time
  2. Re-routing to destination
  3. Transport at a later date if requested

In the course of the corona crisis, the European Commission issued an interpretation guideline. Although this has no binding effect, it is still a good guide:

Accordingly, the full flight price must also be reimbursed if, for example, only the outbound flight but not the return flight has been canceled.

What about a non-EU airline?

For an airline that is not based in the European Union, for example Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, United, Singapore Airlines ..., the EU passenger rights usually only apply to the one-way flight. The return flight is not covered by the regulation.

Although there are also passenger rights in other countries, these are usually much weaker and do not provide for a flat-rate refund in the event of a cancellation. Here are some regulations that we are aware of:

  • United States: For flights within, to and from the USA, the Department of Transportation (DOT) also has rules on reimbursement for cancellations by the airline. Accordingly, the airlines must also reimburse the full flight price here. However, there are exceptions to government restrictions. This may also include entry restrictions.

Most of the time, your own conditions of carriage provide information on how the airlines deal with cancellations. Here using the example of Singapore Airlines:

a), terminated, diverted [...], subject to applicable laws and regulations, the airline may choose one of the following options with the passenger's consent:

(1) transport the passenger as soon as possible on his regular service,

(2) to redirect the passenger on their own scheduled services, on the scheduled services of another airline or by land transport to the destination specified on the ticket or an applicable part of it. [...]

(3) performs in accordance with Section 11 Paragraph 3.

Singapore Airlines Conditions of Carriage Section 10. Flight schedules, cancellations, etc. Paragraph 2. Cancellation, changes to flight schedules, etc.

If the airline refuses carriage in accordance with Article 3, Paragraph 3, Article 8, Paragraph 1 (subject to Article 8, Paragraph 2) or in accordance with Article 9, Paragraph 3 or in one of the cases mentioned, then, subject to Article 11, Paragraph 1 of the calculated. The airline's policy provides information on how the refund payable is calculated.

Singapore Airlines Conditions of Carriage Section 11. Refunds Section 3. Involuntary Refunds

In the current situation, many airlines try to reimburse the flight price only in the form of a voucher. However, many conditions of carriage provide for a refund. Often, however, only a voucher is offered online and you either have to look explicitly for the option of a full refund or contact the airline in writing.

Do I have to accept a voucher instead of money?

The airlines are currently not taking in new money because hardly any flights are booked and at the same time they have to reimburse money already taken for canceled flights. In the last few days we have received a lot of feedback from Travel-Dealz readers who were only offered reimbursement in the form of a voucher (usually only valid for one year). In many cases, a cash refund is refused on the grounds of force majeure.

In its interpretative guideline, the European Commission made it clear that although the flight price may be reimbursed in the form of a voucher, the rights of passengers to a full reimbursement in money must in no way be curtailed.

Apparently, various transport companies are offering vouchers to passengers who no longer want (or are allowed to) travel as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Passengers can use these vouchers for another journey with the same carrier within a period specified by the carrier.

This situation is to be distinguished from the situation in which and instead of the choice between reimbursement and re-routing. If the carrier suggests a voucher, such an offer can be made.

Interpretative guidelines for the EU regulations on passenger rights against the background of the developing situation in connection with Covid-19 of the European Commission 2.2. Situations where passengers are unable to travel or wish to cancel a trip

The reimbursement in the form of a voucher is only permitted if the airline offers passengers who wish to withdraw from their booked flight a coupon as a goodwill gesture. If the flight was canceled by the airline, the full fare must be refunded.

tip: Some airlines give a bonus if you opt for a voucher instead of money. Sometimes even 150-200% is offered as a flight voucher. Asking specifically for it doesn't hurt!

What if the airline refuses?

Some airlines are currently trying to get rid of passengers and are citing exceptional circumstances. However, EU passenger rights do not provide for any exceptional circumstances for reimbursement in the event of a cancellation. Exceptions are only made for the flat-rate compensation (up to € 600).

Due to an extremely high number of inquiries, you have to be prepared for the fact that it will take weeks to months until you have your money back in your account. The airlines are currently overwhelmed with inquiries and at the same time it is questionable whether everyone has the financial cushion. Some will certainly have to file for bankruptcy as well.

Should the airline refuse a refund anyway, the following steps can help:

Time required: 14 days.

Here are the steps you can take to receive a full refund for your canceled flight:

  1. Know your rights

    If the airline or travel agency refuses to reimburse the flight price, you should refer to Article 8Entitlement to reimbursement or other transportation of the EU Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004.
    If the airline is not based in the EU and the flight started in a country outside the EU, it can be helpful

  2. Request in writing

    If the first step does not lead to success, you should write (preferably as a fax e.g. free of charge via fax.pdf24.org after registration, letter with acknowledgment of receipt or, most certainly, personally by the bailiff) with reference to EU passenger rights (point 1) ask to reimburse the flight price. There is a template from the consumer advice center. Important: Set deadline!

  3. Book money back

    If the airline or travel agency / portal still rejects the reimbursement or lets the deadline pass, you can try a chargeback when paying by credit card or direct debit. With the reason Services not provided (see Mastercard Chargeback Guide page 49).
    If you have paid via PayPal, you can also start a conflict resolution there and if the flight was booked no more than 180 days ago, you can also apply for buyer protection.
    Do you have the flight e.g. via Instant bank transfer, paid by bank transfer or in cash, you do not have these options.

  4. Arbitration board or dunning procedure

    If none of the previous steps help, you can contact the arbitration board sooo (if the airline is a member there) switch on. The arbitration is free of charge for you. However, processing applications can take several months.
    If your airline is not a member of the arbitration board, you can also lodge a complaint with the responsible supervisory authority, the Federal Aviation Office. However, the LBA has not made a particularly good figure so far. It could initiate administrative offense proceedings against the airlines on the supervisory authority. So far, however, this has not happened despite the blatant legal violations.
    Another option is one legal dunning initiate. This is possible online and is particularly interesting for airlines with their headquarters or offices in Germany. If the airline does not react, you can apply for an enforcement order and have it enforced by the bailiff. If the airline objects to your claim, normal legal proceedings will ensue. Then you either have to hire a lawyer to represent you in court or, for smaller sums, you can also represent yourself. If you decide not to carry out a contentious procedure when you apply, nothing happens if you object, but you are left with the costs of the dunning procedure.

  5. consult a lawyer

    In addition, a lawyer can help you get your money back. If you have set a deadline in step 2 and this has passed, the airline / booking portal must bear your legal fees if you are right. But get informed about it beforehand before you take the help. You may have to pay in advance and here too a decision can take several months to 1-2 years. In addition, there is always the possibility of losing in court and being left with the costs.

tip: If you did not book your flight directly with the airline, but through an (online) travel agency and the travel agency refuses to refund you, you can try to speak to the airline directly. The airline cannot process the reimbursement itself, but if the airline generally agrees to a reimbursement, you can ask the employee to leave a note in the booking that the booking can be canceled free of charge.

Your experience?

Did you get a refund of the flight price you paid in the event of a cancellation? With which airline did it work and which one is going wrong? Leave a comment!

frequently asked Questions

Who do I have to contact: travel agency or airline?

If you have booked through a travel agency including online travel agencies such as Opodo, Check24, Expedia, Flugladen ..., this travel agency is your best contact. If you booked directly with the airline, you have to contact the airline directly.
If you booked through a travel agency, the airline usually refuses to reimburse or change your booking itself. The travel agency is only the intermediary and the airline actually owes you as the service provider the costs, but the fact that travel agencies take care of reimbursements and rebooking is a long-established system. The fact that the travel agencies take care of cancellations and refunds is a long-established system. However, this system no longer works in the corona crisis. Currently, not only do the passengers not receive any money directly from the airline, but neither do the travel agencies.
However, the airline is not allowed to simply refer passengers to the travel agency. The consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia enforced this against Air France, for example. However, currently only Air France has to refrain from doing this for passengers with German residence. This has a signal effect for other airlines, but there are currently no major consequences. Because of this, you will likely continue to be turned away.

Does the voucher solution also apply to flights?

The federal government has issued a voucher solution for concerts and events. Compulsory vouchers for For Flights & Travel are now off the table. The European Commission has rejected an amendment to Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004. A single-handed regulation would therefore likely violate EU law.
Individual countries, e.g. the Netherlands, have single-handedly issued a voucher solution. However, it is very questionable whether this is compatible with EU law. The EU Commission will presumably take action against this.

Can I also request a rebooking at no extra charge?

Basically, the Passenger Rights Ordinance 261/2004 provides for a cancellation at a later point in time if requested. The regulation does not state that the airline may charge a surcharge here. Just subject to availability is mentioned as a condition. This is also what a judgment of May 8, 2020 by the Cologne Regional Court sees.

What do you do with an airline from a third country with a departure outside the EU?

Here you should take a close look at the conditions of carriage. Most airlines only want to reimburse the money in the form of a voucher, but most conditions of carriage do not provide for this at all. Depending on the country of departure, there are also local laws.

How long will it take to get my money back?

In my estimation, this can take weeks to months. The airlines are currently overloaded with inquiries and at the same time the airline has a liquidity problem. For some airlines, the current situation will also lead to bankruptcy. If the reimbursement is refused, a chargeback may help if you paid by credit card.

I paid with PayPal. Does buyer protection help?

In principle, PayPal Buyer Protection can also help with flights if the airline or travel portal refuses to reimburse a canceled flight. A prerequisite for this is that the booking and payment were made no more than 180 days ago. Before initiating an application, however, an attempt should be made to obtain a refund. For this, PayPal also first offers an arbitration between buyer & seller under conflict resolution. If the seller does not respond to the attempted arbitration or continues to reject the reimbursement, an application for buyer protection can be submitted.

What if only the outward or return flight has been canceled. Can I still claim a refund for both flights?

Yes, the EU Commission has made it clear that a flight on a ticket with a return flight can be canceled and the full ticket including additional flights can be reimbursed. If only the outbound flight or only the return flight was canceled, you can still have the full ticket refunded.

Can a travel agent charge a fee for the reimbursement?

Unfortunately, this is a question that (to the best of my knowledge) has not yet been finally resolved in court. At least if the flight has been canceled by the airline. For a cancellation request by the customer (according to the booking conditions), this is usually permitted.
The legal experts at Stiftung Warentest are of the opinion that travel agents are obliged to process a refund anyway and that a processing fee would be an inadmissible contractual penalty.
A processing fee should only be approved with reservations. If the legal situation is clearer, you can then claim the improperly paid processing fee back.

The flight times have changed on the flight I have booked. Can i cancel?

If the flight times are changed, the originally planned flight is generally canceled.At least if there is a significant change in flight times, you can withdraw from the flight and get a refund of the flight price within 7 working days according to the European Air Passenger Rights Regulation 261/2014. Unfortunately, there is no precise definition of how much flight times must have changed to warrant a refund. 5 minutes may not be enough, but several hours are definitely.

John

I founded Travel-Dealz in 2010 and have been writing about the latest travel deals every day. Since I was 17, I've been looking for ways to fly as cheaply as possible. With my knowledge, I try to do exactly the same for you. If you have a question you can always contact me! Just write me an email to: [email protected] Please do not confuse this with a travel agency.

You might also be interested in: