While European law requires all companies to reimburse canceled flights to or from a European country, winning a case can be very long and tedious.
The announcement caught everyone off guard. This Thursday, Morocco declared to suspend all flights to and from France due to the health deterioration.
The measure, which will come into effect on November 26 at 11:59 p.m. concerns all people from so-called “list B” countries, namely France, several countries of the European Union as well as the United Kingdom, Algeria and Tunisia, according to the latest update from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After the disappointment of travelers who planned vacations in much milder temperatures than those in France, everyone is now wondering if they will be able to obtain a refund for their tickets.
For the most part, European law should apply. If the latter does not mention the term “suspension”, he is talking about flight cancellation which results in a refund of the ticket within seven days. This is indeed what European regulation 261/2004 provides, which applies to all flights arriving or departing from a European country regardless of the nationality of the airline. The customer can also get a credit only if he accepts it. The company must in no case force his hand, recalls Raphaël Bartlome, head of the legal department of UFC-Que Choisir. “The law provides that the reimbursement must be made within seven days from the date of cancellation of the flight but we have seen with the health crisis that the period is much longer”, he emphasizes.
Repayments expected for more than a year
Some injured travelers have still not won their case. The health crisis has indeed highlighted the real obstacle course that must be taken by holidaymakers who remain at the dock. From the first border closures and flight cancellations, many users found themselves with vouchers, the company refusing them a refund or even without any compensation. Among the bad pupils is in particular Royal Air Maroc, very present on the routes between France and Morocco. “Some passengers have been waiting since April 2020 for a refund instead of the voucher they received”, regrets Raphaël Bartlome. In May 2020, UFC-Que Choisir, which had given formal notice to 57 companies for non-compliance with the right to reimbursement for canceled flights, decided to assign 20 of them, including Air France, KLM, Ryanair, Lufthansa and even Royal Air Maroc. for this type of practice.
The Moroccan company could, this time, be within its rights by refusing the reimbursement of some of its passengers. “It seems unlikely that Morocco will fully suspend flights to or from France without allowing its nationals to return home”. Some flights will therefore be authorized for certain travelers. However, if a passenger who does not meet the border crossing criteria is not authorized to board a plane but the latter takes off, the company has no obligation to reimburse him for his ticket. She can, moreover, herself, refuse him access on board since it must verify that the traveler meets the criteria. Otherwise, in the event of an inspection, it will have to pay for its re-routing to its country at its own expense.
“Above all, do not give up!”
“The only solution in this case is to insist with the company to have a commercial gesture. You should also check with your bank card or home insurance which may include extensions relating to this type of situation and, of course, check whether the voucher is exchangeable or refundable or whether you have taken out cancellation insurance. It doesn’t take a lot of time but it can be very useful ”, explains the specialist. If the company refuses to reimburse a canceled flight, Raphaël Bartlomé recommends that users persevere even if he admits that they will have to be patient. “If you have gone through an intermediary such as a tour operator, you should not go to him but to the company directly and insist. You can also communicate about your dispute on social networks and appeal to consumer associations like ours or contact the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) to put the pressure on. on the airline “, he explains, adding: “Above all, don’t give up!”
For its part, UFC Que-Choisir is trying to put pressure on companies to be conciliatory. “We are fighting to try to make them understand that they risk irremediably losing their customers who have lost money”, he adds. Convinced of this strategy, Air France is a good student. The national company has changed its commercial policy several times, allowing all its travelers to exchange or be reimbursed for their tickets, whether the plane can take off or not. This gesture, which was supposed to end on December 31, was finally extended for all tickets purchased before the 1er February 2022 for travel before June 30 of the same year.
Easy Jet also seems to be taking a step towards consumers. Earlier today, the low-cost company decided to cancel all its flights to Morocco from Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle and the provinces until the end of December, preceding by a few hours the country announcement. A decision justified by the “Latest Covid-19 entry restriction on the territory put in place by the kingdom”. In accordance with European law, affected passengers will be offered a free change to their flight, a credit or a refund, Easy Jet said.