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France Allows Its Airlines to Refuse Cash Refunds

France Allows Its Airlines to Refuse Cash Refunds
Taylor Rains

If you’re one of the thousands of people whose flight has been canceled due to the coronavirus, it is very likely you have been offered a refund in the form of a voucher rather than your money back. This strategy used by the airlines can be frustrating, and some FlyerTalk users have taken to the forums to discuss ways to combat this. However, in one forum, it was revealed that France might be allowing its airlines to refuse refunds, and Air France may have cut a deal with Amex France.

Want to follow the conversation? Head to this forum thread.

Air France Conversation

Being offered a voucher over a cash refund for a canceled flight has become the norm during the coronavirus crisis, and customers are not happy about it. One FlyerTalk user posted their conversation with Air France in the forums, showing the airline’s response to their request for reimbursement.

“Look at this exchange.

I had contacted AF because my flight was cancelled on Saturday. I already requested a refund (via the form) but then I received a new email asking me to claim my voucher, which prompted me to contact them on Twitter.

What would you suggest as next steps?”

The poster received a few different pieces of advice, such as requesting a chargeback on the credit card used or making a claim under EC Regulation 261/2004, but it also revealed some interesting information regarding France’s stance on vouchers, and a possible deal between Air France and Amex France.

18-Month Voucher?

According to two users in the forum, France announced in one of its many decrees that an 18-month voucher could replace a cash refund. One FlyerTalker said,

“This offer for a voucher has been confirmed by the French government in the latest series of decrees, specifically addressing this issue : voucher valid 18 months.”

When questioned about the source, the user continued,

“I had heard it on the radio, but as I checked could not find any official statement. I stand by the info that the French government has now ruled out refund by decree.”

Another user backed up the story, stating,

“Indeed, the French Government has taken an “ordonnance” where a refund is replaced by an “a valoir”, i.e. a voucher valid for 18 months. Sure the EU can take France to court for temporarily violating EC261. So what?”

Even if it is true that the French government has allowed its airlines to replace cash refunds with vouchers (although there is no news confirming this), it goes against the European Commission’s ruling that reimbursement for airfare is the customer’s right, even if they are first offered a voucher.

Air France’s Deal With Amex France?

As the conversation continued in the forum, the original poster gave an update to their argument with Air France. They said,

“So I just called the Platinum line. No refunds for non-refundable tickets. Period. I then called Amex France to request a chargeback. They refused to open the case stating that they have been instructed, as AF is a partner, to not open any cases. All reimbursement cases have to be processed by Axa as an insurance claim. So now even Amex Platinum is washing its hands. Unbelievable situation.”

Based on this information, it appears Air France has cut a deal with its partner, Amex France, to not open any cases for chargebacks in the case of flight cancellations. If this is true, it is a sneaky move by both companies.

What do you think about Air France’s stance on refunds? Have you had any issues opening a dispute against Air France through Amex France? Let us know in the comments!

View Comments (35)

35 Comments

  1. Global321

    March 25, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    “…They refused to open the case stating that they have been instructed, as AF is a partner, to not open any cases. ”

    Not sure where OP is based, pretty sure that is not allowed in USA.

  2. MikeFromTokyo

    March 25, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    I think the policy is reasonable. If the original tickets were non-refundable, being allowed to use the full value of the ticket on a flexible basis for eighteen months is a very fair solution. Passengers who want a full refund should have purchased tickets in higher fare classes that allow refunds.

    Additionally, people should have travel insurance and/or rely on the travel insurance benefits associated with their credit cards to offset any losses they may incur.

    This pandemic is not the end of the world and not the end of commercial air travel. It will be relatively short lived, and Air France will operate as normal in the future.

  3. blandy62

    March 25, 2020 at 6:14 pm

    Didn’t the EU commission clearly clarified that airlines have to refund for cancelled flights?

  4. Sydneyjb

    March 26, 2020 at 12:48 am

    They should offer a 25% bonus on top of the voucher and make it transferable

  5. jimbous

    March 26, 2020 at 2:49 am

    Boycott Air France.
    Boycott France.
    Air France sucks.
    France sucks

  6. peco

    March 26, 2020 at 3:14 am

    What’s the issue getting a voucher??? cash flow problems on your side folks???? I understand that of course its better to get cash back but on the other hand the situation is not normal. For those who have payed a couple of thousand € for tickets thats hard. But i think the majority hasnt so whats the problem?? i , myself , am waiting for a voucher worth 500€. I am fine with it. I was told that validity is 1 year and thats ok for me. If even more ,18 months, GREAT. if Airlines have a cash problem in this situation then every measures that keeps them a float is welcome. Bailing out an Airline will be paid by you and me and that without questioning if WE agree or not right? I not saying that breaking rules is OK. Its not but at the moment and in this scenario, where we do not know how this will end , i personally think that a voucher is ok.

  7. adenzin7

    March 26, 2020 at 3:21 am

    this isn’t even allowed in the EU, France just made up its own rules and can and probably will be sued but it will takes months.

  8. Podcat

    March 26, 2020 at 7:03 am

    In the USA it would violate Federal law.
    Amex being a US company should tell the airline to go suck,an egg, but they won’t.
    It’s said there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal — except maybe a wounded airline. Right now it’s not about customer relations or even the law — just a fight to survive.

  9. cpblanco

    March 26, 2020 at 7:03 am

    It says that after 12 months, if it’s not used, the voucher becomes refundable. So just wait?

  10. bostontraveler

    March 26, 2020 at 8:30 am

    It was from me… I am based in France.

  11. bostontraveler

    March 26, 2020 at 8:34 am

    American Express France is turning all claims over to Axa Insurance. I brought to their attention the fact that this was not an insurance issue but a purchase protection issue. They insisted those were the instructions received from management.

    With respect to Air France they said they are only refunding refundable tickets. Some help…

  12. eefor jfp

    March 26, 2020 at 8:52 am

    i agree that it’s pretty crappy but at least the voucher is refundable if not used by the end of the validity period. That’s a lot better than some other voucher offers that didn’t include that provision. Still, being forced to give a company an interest-free loan for 18 months isn’t great for the consumer who is also hard hit.

  13. bostontraveler

    March 26, 2020 at 10:20 am

    @peco you imply some deficiency on the part of people who rightfully are owed money as if it were their fault? Huh? “cash flow problems??” For some people the amounts are in the thousands so yes, it most definitely can be a cash flow issue. Add to that the uncertainty that we expect in the next few months (did you see the jobless claims report today???) and people will need cash- not vouchers- to live on. Nobody knows how long this will go on but the economy will definitely be taking a big hit.

    If you’re happy lending them money, fine, but I am not. My cash should not be used to finance a massive company.

    The law is clear. If the airline cancels, a refund is due. Period.

  14. tk03526

    March 26, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    Airlines are criminals. Especially KLM and Airfrance. It’s a shame how they behave. Continue to insist to get your money back. If American Express Platinum service doesn’t help, simply cancel the contract with them. 600 EUR annual fee for not providing any help if you need them – no way. They will review their policy very quickly if more and customers will do the same.

  15. mvoight

    March 26, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    I would agree you should not be entitled to cash if YOU cancel the flight. If the airline cancels your flight, you should get a refund even on nonrefundable fares. That has been the norm for decades.

  16. jimbous

    March 26, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    Let’s see now, the airline files for bankruptcy and you then become an unsecured creditor.
    Do you think you’ll ever get your money back, and are you prepared to wait years for a resolution???
    If you’re OK with the above possibilities then let the airline keep your money or get a voucher that may be useless.
    Air France, the country of France, and any other airlines acting this way by denying and delaying refunds to passengers should be ashamed of themselves, especially the country of France that’s supposed to act on behalf of the consumers.

    Lufthansa is reportedly also acting this way by delaying refunds:
    https://liveandletsfly.com/2020/03/26/lufthansa-denies-refunds/

  17. Benjh

    March 27, 2020 at 4:50 am

    @peco: maybe you should step down from you pedestal and have some empathy. It’s not for you to decide how much money is too much for people to be out of.
    Is $500 a low number for you? it’s life and death for some people right now. we should bail out airlines but who’s gonna bail us out when we’re out of a job? There’s a law and we all abide by it. Airlines should too.

  18. Firstboss

    March 27, 2020 at 5:54 am

    The blame cannot be put on Air France here. They are the victims of the emotional mismanagement by the governments which had wasted 2 months without enforcing quarantine measures for all travelers from the regions with confirmed epidemic, and now they are busy with firefighting and destroying global economy without any strategic vision.

    Air France didn’t choose to cancel the flights. The governments closed the borders to travel. The customers who complain about refunds and vouchers should worry about their future in the world with 60% unemployment, and if Air France / KLM will remain in existance

  19. bostontraveler

    March 27, 2020 at 2:49 pm

    @firstboss Your message is absurd and obnoxious. Your attitude seems like it came directly from Air France’s PR firm. You have confused David and Goliath.
    The blame for flights being cancelled is not Air France’s. What IS however Air France’s fault is BLATANTLY disregarding European law by not refunding customers when it is OBLIGATED BY LAW to do so. And then making all kinds of incoherent excuses like “oh, your ticket isn’t refundable therefore….(a lie, this has nothing to do with their obligation)”. Or, “we have an ordonnance” which supersedes European law (another lie). Or deliberately ignoring the specific directive of the EU Commission, dated March 18, 2020 clarifying that airlines who cancel flights must refund customers.
    What the heck are you talking about that customers should worry about their future and AF’s existence? Since when is it the responsibility of customers, who did not receive a service, to have to provide an interest-free loan to Air France?? Perhaps AF should work faster to secure funding from the French government.
    AF has shown a blatant disrespect for the rule of law as well as its customers. And it is acting in bad faith.

  20. Yolow

    March 27, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    Let’s all thank Jimbous for his/her/its precious value on the thread.

  21. bostontraveler

    March 27, 2020 at 7:29 pm

    @Yalow so what exactly is of such “precious value” that Jimnous shared such that it might interrupt the discussion here?

  22. bostontraveler

    March 27, 2020 at 7:37 pm

    And to the moderators… Why should we all gather to thank Yolow in his celebration of his, one again, “precious thread”…?
    Whose thread?

  23. UncleDude

    March 28, 2020 at 5:51 am

    If the Airlines Gave a Voucher Like for Like that could be acceptable. But giving a monetary voucher for a Route/Fare that has double is IMHO Blatant Price Gouging. This has happened to a colleague booked with LH.

    Incidentally at the moment LH voucher are only valid until end of August 2020. Great if you happen to enjoy vacationing in a Monsoon.

    Expect EU Courts will rectify this soon .

  24. fifty_two

    fifty_two

    March 28, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Looks like someone misunderstood the situation . I would advise the author of this article to do a bit of research before publishing fake/incorrect news

  25. 777 global mile hound

    March 28, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Prior to the Pandemic I cut American express spending 90% across all my accounts.
    I’m now down to two cards from 5. I rarely use especially as Bonvoy earnings now suck
    My issue is they don’t play fair and are no longer trustworthy.I’ve spent considerably with them over the years but unfortunately they aren’t the world class company they once were years ago and not to be trusted for the most part
    Citibank and Chase now get the lions share of my spend

  26. Stormbel

    March 28, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    An 18 month voucher is okay with me if it covers the same flight, at the same time next year. (I am assuming that this will apply to KLM too.) Once a year I travel on this route and it’s the only flight I take with AF/KLM. If I had no plans to travel with them in the foreseeable future then I would feel unhappy, but I do understand why they are doing this, however wrong.
    I also understand that if the airline failed I would lose every cent and that’s hard to justify. My travel insurance has a €100 excess, so I would not get all my money back!

  27. ChinaShrek

    March 29, 2020 at 8:02 am

    European law? What an oxymoron! To paraphrase Andrew Jackson, “You made your law EU, now let’s see you enforce it.” The EU as a political force will soon disappear. Only nation-states have true power!

  28. scubaccr

    April 1, 2020 at 8:07 am

    Also missing the issue of Business travelers who have to pay for their own airline flight ticket up front, either personal CC (especially if a contractor) or a company Amex/Diners card.

    Issue is that many companies to prevent fraud, ie employee charging a flight but not flying, or even submitting a costlier flight option then traveling on cheaper airline/seat-class, require the employee to present the boarding pass stub (or online checkin printout) to claim expenses (eg IBM). SO if employees flight is cancelled, they can not claim the expenses of airline ticket back, AND still need settle the CC/Amex/Diners within 30 days of next billing cycle. Fo

  29. bostontraveler

    April 4, 2020 at 9:47 am

    @fifty_two

    “Looks like someone misunderstood the situation . I would advise the author of this article to do a bit of research before publishing fake/incorrect news”

    Give me a break. Please read the stories of MANY travelers. Stop trolling.

  30. jimbous

    April 4, 2020 at 10:35 am

    U.S. DOT: Airlines must give refunds — not just vouchers — when flights are canceled amid coronavirus

    https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/03/coronavirus-travel-airlines-must-give-refunds-not-vouchers-when-flights-are-axed.html

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-03/airlines-ordered-to-pay-refunds-for-flights-canceled-by-virus

    For Europe:

    “The European Union on Wednesday issued a similar statement, saying EU law requires reimbursements to be made within seven days.”

    “Airlines must refund canceled flight tickets,” EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean said in an emailed statement. “They can of course also offer a voucher but — and this is very important — only if the customer agrees to accept this.”

  31. jimbous

    April 4, 2020 at 10:50 am

    U.S. DOT: Also, It looks like refunds are available even though a voucher was accepted:

    “For now, carriers have been told to contact customers who have been given vouchers for canceled flights to let them know they have an option for a refund.”

    https://thepointsguy.com/news/dot-to-airlines-refunds-are-not-optional-for-canceled-flights/

  32. bostontraveler

    April 7, 2020 at 7:27 am

    Except for the whole point is that European airlines are not refunding despite what the law clearly states.

  33. jimbous

    April 7, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    With news like this it doesn’t look like Air France-KLM will continue in its present form with its very high operating costs:

    https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-france-airfrance/france-wants-to-keep-air-france-klm-intact-finance-minister-idUSP6N2BB01S

    The above looks deceptively reassuring!

  34. stablemate77

    April 15, 2020 at 9:26 pm

    not different than usa all get here is voucher robbers big robbers

  35. firstlight

    April 25, 2020 at 6:41 am

    In the UK they cannot do this; the credit card company is equally liable for breach of contract where the amount is over £100 (section 75 of the consumer credit act). Easyjet were playing hard to get with me having cancelled a flight and then providing the only route to a refund via a call center which refused to answer calls. Online dispute raised with Amex, money back in my account within 5 minutes. Amex will then sort it out with Easyjet and it’s no longer my problem!

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