Dutch inspectorate says airlines need to speed up customer refunds
The Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport; ILT) has imposed a deadline for airlines in the Netherlands, forcing them to issue refunds faster to customers who were unable to fly due to the coronavirus crisis.
KLM among airlines found to be too slow in refunding customers
The advice follows an investigation the ILT carried out, looking at 10 airlines, their refund policies, and the actions they have been taking since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Lufthansa, British Airways, Easyjet, Ryanair, and Delta Airlines were praised by the ILT for immediately issuing refunds to customers for trips affected by the pandemic.
On the other hand, KLM, Corendon, Transavia, and Tui initially only offered vouchers for customers, and only shifted to cash refunds following pressure from the European Commission and consumers' organisations. These airlines have been criticised by the ILT for being too slow to refund customers, some of whom wait months before their money is returned to them. The investigation also found that the refunds paid out by these companies were only paid out in small amounts
The deadline would force these airlines to refund customers within seven days of the cancelled flight. However, according to the airlines, this deadline is not always feasible, due to the high number of refund requests they have received.
Return policy in the Netherlands
Talks are now taking place between the airlines and the ILT, to establish a system to ensure customers get their money back within a reasonable amount of time. The talks are set to take place throughout the rest of July and August, and any airline that doesn’t follow the agreed-upon measures will first receive a warning, and then a fine.
Gerard Spierenburg of the Consumers' Association (consumentenbond) said airlines continue to abuse the power they hold over customers and fail to keep them informed of the risks they take when booking flights: “Even if you book a flight now, you run the risk of being cancelled within a few days. Then you get that voucher again and people feel robbed. Companies must make clear how big that risk is. At Transavia, the chance of cancellation is around 90 percent. If you know that as a consumer, you will make a different decision.''
If your flight has been cancelled because of the coronavirus, you are entitled to a refund for the total amount of the ticket price. While not all airlines stuck to this rule initially, policy changes mean you can apply for your refund.