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COVID-19: refund provided as voucher (for non refundable fares)

COVID-19: refund provided as voucher (for non refundable fares)

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Old Apr 5, 20, 11:58 pm   -   Wikipost
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European Commission EC261/2004 guidelines in context of COVD-19 dated 18 MAR 2020
US DoT Enforcement Notice regarding refunds dated 3 APR 2020.
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Old Mar 18, 20, 1:13 pm
  #1  
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COVID-19: refund provided as voucher (for non refundable fares)

I may be overthinking or misreading this but it seems really strange that AF has this message on its site. It implies that if your flight is cancelled that you are only entitled to a voucher-- not a refund. If that is the case it's absurd.

I have two flights coming up with I am certain will be canceled but I don't want to touch them until AF makes the first move.

What is your reading on this? Notice the same text for voluntary and involuntary cancellations.....

YOU WANT TO CANCEL YOUR TRIP
If you have purchased a ticket for a flight departing before 31 May 2020, please contact your travel agency for further information.

*****If you purchased a ticket directly from our website, please complete the online form below to obtain a travel voucher. This non-refundable voucher is valid for 1 year on all Air France, KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic flights.*****


YOUR FLIGHT HAS BEEN CANCELED
If your flight has been canceled and you no longer wish to travel, please contact your travel agency for further information.

*****If you purchased your ticket directly from our website or at an Air France point of sale, please complete the online form below to obtain a travel voucher. This voucher is valid for 1 year on all Air France, KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic flights.*****
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Old Mar 18, 20, 2:11 pm
  #2  
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Originally Posted by bostontraveler View Post
I may be overthinking or misreading this but it seems really strange that AF has this message on its site. It implies that if your flight is cancelled that you are only entitled to a voucher-- not a refund. If that is the case it's absurd.

I have two flights coming up with I am certain will be canceled but I don't want to touch them until AF makes the first move.

What is your reading on this? Notice the same text for voluntary and involuntary cancellations.....

YOU WANT TO CANCEL YOUR TRIP
If you have purchased a ticket for a flight departing before 31 May 2020, please contact your travel agency for further information.

*****If you purchased a ticket directly from our website, please complete the online form below to obtain a travel voucher. This non-refundable voucher is valid for 1 year on all Air France, KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic flights.*****


YOUR FLIGHT HAS BEEN CANCELED
If your flight has been canceled and you no longer wish to travel, please contact your travel agency for further information.

*****If you purchased your ticket directly from our website or at an Air France point of sale, please complete the online form below to obtain a travel voucher. This voucher is valid for 1 year on all Air France, KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic flights.*****
If you look at the actual form, however, and the "reason for the request" section, only the first one (health situation coronavirus) speaks of a voucher. For cancellation ("my flight was cancelled by the airline"), normal refund procedures should apply and they ask you to specify a refund method, such as refund to a credit card or bank transfer, which would make no sense if the only refund possible was a voucher.
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Old Mar 18, 20, 2:21 pm
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Thanks! You'd think they'd specify that....
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Old Mar 18, 20, 3:10 pm
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It seems airlines are deploying all the strategies they can to make people change their flights (for free!) rather than requesting the refunds they are entitled to. Some airlines are delaying the cancellations of the flights until a few days/hours before, partly because they still hope they can operate them (I guess) but mostly because they hope more passengers would rebook before the flight is actually cancelled officially. And obviously, they avoid communicating on the refund possibilies.
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Last edited by ranskis; Mar 19, 20 at 3:24 am
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Old Mar 18, 20, 3:58 pm
  #5  
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Originally Posted by ranskis View Post
It seems airlines are deploying all the strategies they can to make people change their flights (for free!) rather than requesting the refunds they are entitled to. Some airlines are delaying the cancellations of the flights until a few days/hours before, partly because they still operate them (I guess) but mostly because they hope more passengers would rebook before the flight is actually cancelled officially. And obviously, they avoid communicating on the refund possibilies.
Has been exactly my thought. They are hemorrhaging cash.

I was chuckling because a big airline exec from my B-school on our WhatsApp group

"Nobody is giving refunds nor should anyone expect one. Everybody has to pay their fair share in this."

Right.
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Old Mar 18, 20, 4:01 pm
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Carriers which want passengers to accept "funny money" in place of a refund need to offer a premium. Nobody should take the risk of accepting a voucher when they can get cash at the same (0) discount. Now, if you got a voucher for a 25% premium, there are those who will use the voucher and for whom it makes a lot of sense.
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Old Mar 18, 20, 5:42 pm
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Originally Posted by bostontraveler View Post
I may be overthinking or misreading this but it seems really strange that AF has this message on its site. It implies that if your flight is cancelled that you are only entitled to a voucher-- not a refund. If that is the case it's absurd.

I have two flights coming up with I am certain will be canceled but I don't want to touch them until AF makes the first move.

What is your reading on this? Notice the same text for voluntary and involuntary cancellations.....

YOU WANT TO CANCEL YOUR TRIP
If you have purchased a ticket for a flight departing before 31 May 2020, please contact your travel agency for further information.

*****If you purchased a ticket directly from our website, please complete the online form below to obtain a travel voucher. This non-refundable voucher is valid for 1 year on all Air France, KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic flights.*****


YOUR FLIGHT HAS BEEN CANCELED
If your flight has been canceled and you no longer wish to travel, please contact your travel agency for further information.

*****If you purchased your ticket directly from our website or at an Air France point of sale, please complete the online form below to obtain a travel voucher. This voucher is valid for 1 year on all Air France, KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic flights.*****
I notice that the involuntary cancellation line does only mention "this voucher", not "this non-refundable voucher". Sounds like they would auto-issue a voucher, which you can ask to be refunded. That way, they can register a liability against you, but will retain the cash, provided you trust them to make it good later. Seems fairly reasonable given the current unique situation.

I wonder how it was at the time of the volcano. I didn't follow the refund procedures at the time. But it is certainly different in that this crisis is sure not to go away any soon, which couldn't have been told about the volcano plume.
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Old Mar 18, 20, 5:57 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
Carriers which want passengers to accept "funny money" in place of a refund need to offer a premium. Nobody should take the risk of accepting a voucher when they can get cash at the same (0) discount. Now, if you got a voucher for a 25% premium, there are those who will use the voucher and for whom it makes a lot of sense.
That's sorta the case now: Buy next month's flight for cheap. Then rebook for 6months later when it would be more expensive for you. When/if this blows over, there will be a lot of pent up traveller demand for the touristy routes anyway.
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Old Mar 18, 20, 7:56 pm
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Originally Posted by tecate55 View Post
That's sorta the case now: Buy next month's flight for cheap. Then rebook for 6months later when it would be more expensive for you. When/if this blows over, there will be a lot of pent up traveller demand for the touristy routes anyway.
And a lot less capacity.
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Old Mar 18, 20, 9:00 pm
  #10  
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I have seen other airlines moving to this "voucher only" refund of cancelled flights.
There is little doubt that they have been communicating between themselves. I heard from a rather reliable source that airlines are asking the EU for some relief from EC261.
Currently, or In the near future, airlines are running out of cash and no banks will lend them more money. There are many possible scenarios. Among them:
- Airline honors their T&C until they run out of cash (let's call this bankruptcy as shortcut). Later they will restart in some leaner fashion.
- Airline will get nationalized as is considered by the French State.
- Many other scenarios.

Some very personal comments:
In countries where labor laws are flexible, airlines can adapt a bit better.
France had basically announced that the State would pick the whole tab for the pandemy (salaries, nationalization, etc...). They seem to now realize that it has many adverse effects and that the bill would be gigantic.
Relying on courts to obtain cash refunds is far from assured, even if the contractual terms are clear. The world economy cannot operate without airlines and countries might take emergency measures.
We are entering a WW3 period and nothing is assured.
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Old Mar 19, 20, 5:33 am
  #11  
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Originally Posted by brunos View Post
There is little doubt that they have been communicating between themselves. I heard from a rather reliable source that airlines are asking the EU for some relief from EC261.
They may seek to get some relief from the care obligations under EC261/2004 but I doubt that they are seeking an exemption from the obligation to refund when they cancel flight, which would be tantamount to an authorisation to steal passengers' money.

To be honest, I doubt that EC261/2004 is a major issue here. We are not going to have thousands of passengers stranded the way we had them during the volcanic ash crisis. Tinkering about with EC261/2004 has all the flavour of re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic where the very real and very serious problems facing airlines are elsewhere.
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Old Mar 19, 20, 6:26 am
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
Carriers which want passengers to accept "funny money" in place of a refund need to offer a premium. Nobody should take the risk of accepting a voucher when they can get cash at the same (0) discount. Now, if you got a voucher for a 25% premium, there are those who will use the voucher and for whom it makes a lot of sense.
Did the mistake to cancel a flight that was going to be cancelled anyway (airport closed in the country I was supposed to fly to in Africa on Monday), only got a voucher. My original fare (R) allowed cancellation up to a 1 day prior to departure. Normal ? I understand it's my mistake, but also seem a bit weird (I know, not the end of the world). A small premium could have helped.
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Old Mar 19, 20, 7:46 am
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The European Commission confirmed that no compensation is due if an airline cancels a flight due to Corona-related restrictions. However, the Commission also affirmed that, if it is the airline which cancels the flight, a cash refund is due. A voucher may be offered, but the PAX may decline in lieu of cash. https://ec.europa.eu/transport/sites...0201830_en.pdf
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Old Mar 19, 20, 7:52 am
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There is little doubt that they have been communicating between themselves. I heard from a rather reliable source that airlines are asking the EU for some relief from EC261.
It's not to easy for the EU Parliament to change a law and apply it retroactively. Basically, the parliament would need to scrap or rewrite EC261/2004 article 8, which (today) requires the airline to issue a full refund.
If the EU parliament pushes through a retroactive change, you can bet that pax and claim agencies will challenge that at the European Court of Justice.
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Old Mar 19, 20, 7:53 am
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The European Commission confirmed that no compensation is due if an airline cancels a flight due to Corona-related restrictions. However, the Commission also affirmed that, if it is the airline which cancels the flight, a cash refund is due. A voucher may be offered, but the PAX may decline in lieu of cash. https://ec.europa.eu/transport/sites...0201830_en.pdf
I am fine! Coronavirus does not entitle to article 7 compensation.
But there is no way to scrap article 8 protections.
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