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Malta Among 12 EU Countries Calling For ‘Temporary Suspension Of Consumer Rights’ To Cancelled Flights’ Refunds

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Cancelled flights all across the globe are leading to an unprecedented number of requests for airlines to issue refunds amidst a growing financial storm… and Malta is among 12 EU countries wanting to temporarily suspend passengers’ rights for those refunds.

“Air carriers are no longer generating passenger business, yet they continue to incur high running costs,” a joint statement led by France and Netherlands leaked this morning on Twitter reads. “Because of this, the obligation to reimburse cancelled tickets in cash, if the passenger so decides, places airlines in a difficult situation where they are facing a serious cash flow challenge.”

“When the wording of the regulation was conceived, the current global crsis and its impact on air travel could not have been foreseen.”

The statement, which is being backed by Malta, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Poland and Portugal, goes on to call upon the European Commission to, “as a matter of urgency”, add a “temporary amendment” to the regulation concerned (261/2004) which would “allow airlines to choose the means by which passengers are reimbursed”.

“Such a temporary rule would be a solution for current cash flow constraints of airlines while preserving the competitiveenss of European aviation, and mainting harmonized criteria of application of a European scale so as to allow a common and adequate level of consumer protection,” the statement clarifies.

Of course, this doesn’t mean consumers would have zero compensation for their cancelled flights, with the joint statement pointing instead to “airline vouchers”.

“We believe that regulating the temporary issuance of vouchers is possible and acceptable for consumers, if some key principles are taken into account,” the statement elaborates, listing down everything from “a common length of voucher validity” to “a clear right of reimbursement immediately at the end of validy in the event of non-use of vouchers”.

This would essentially mean that any voucher would be refundable after a certain period of time. Customers of France and Netherlands’ national airlines – Air France and KLM respectively – currently have to wait a year to get their money back.

“Moreover, as consumers are offered vouchers with a long-term validity, it is crucial to discuss way to protect voucher owners against the risk of bankruptcy of the airlines that issued thos vouchers,” the statement goes on. “The corresponding work should however not block action on the demand from airlines, which is becoming more urgent every day.”

Yesterday, Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli laid down her stance on such travel vouchers in an interview with Lovin Malta.

During the 23rd episode of COVID Calls, Farrugia Portelli said “the idea of travel vouchers would keep the consumers safe”, bringing up the issue of solidarity and even a personal example of her daughter’s Holy Communion.

“Many people had tourist products booked: travel, weekend breaks or even services booked,” Farrugia Portelli told Lovin Malta. “For example personally, my daughter was supposed to be doing her Holy Communion this June. I could have gone to the place of booking and asked for a refund on the €400 I spent. And although it’s my right, I think the Maltese have a better sense of solidarity. Plus, I think we all need a holiday break after this.”

“On a European level, there’s the travel directive, which is clear and protects consumer rights for refunds in case of cancellations,” the Tourism Minister continued. “There are a number of countries that have not followed this and put Malta and its travel agencies in precarious situations. We could have broken the rules too, but we are urging to take a stand on a fair level.”

COVID Calls: Episode 23

How can the tourism industry rebuild after COVID-19? ✈️Today on #COVIDCalls we interview Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli, the Malta Tourism Authority and a representative from the travel agent industry ????

Posted by Lovin Malta on Tuesday, April 28, 2020

 

What do you make of this situation? Do you agree with the stance that Malta has taken on an EU level?

READ NEXT: Malta Calls For Safe Travel Corridors Between EU Countries Which Have Successfully Controlled Pandemic

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