Several airline companies agreed on Wednesday to reimburse passengers in Europe for canceled flights within seven days, the European Commission said.
The announcement follows talks between the Commission, national consumer protection authorities, and 16 major airline carriers.
Watchdogs from several countries had alerted EU authorities of airlines not fulfilling their refund commitments to passengers when the COVID-19 pandemic caused mass flight cancellations across the continent.
"In the early phase of the pandemic, some airlines pushed vouchers on passengers. They were acting against EU consumer protection rules. That was unacceptable," EU Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders said.
"It is good news for consumers that airlines cooperated during the dialogues, and committed to respecting passengers' rights and improving their communication," Reynders added.
Commissioner for Transport, Adina Valean said the new changes were crucial to restore passengers' confidence in airlines. "The recovery of the air transport sector depends on this. This is why we are also currently assessing regulatory options to reinforce passenger protection against future crisis, as foreseen in our Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy," Valean added.
The airlines involved in the talks with the EU Commission included Aegean Airlines, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Easyjet, Eurowings, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Ryanair, TAP, Vueling and Wizz Air.
Airlines to refund tickets from third-party platforms
The commission said that refunding passengers in a timely manner, within 7 days, for canceled flights was required under EU law. Airlines have also committed to informing passengers more clearly about their rights, in the event of a flight cancellation.
They must now also clearly distinguish between flight cancellations by the airline and flight cancellations by the passenger, which are inherently different in terms of passenger rights.
For passengers who have booked their flight through an intermediary can now request a refund with the airline directly. The air carriers are now obliged to provide information on how to request a refund for flights bought through a third-party platform.
The CPC network is said to monitor the correct implementation of the new rules, while national authorities are in charge of deciding how to deal with the outstanding issue of non-refundable vouchers that were pushed onto consumers in the early phase of the pandemic, the commission said.