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Airlines are liable to refund passengers on flights cancelled during pandemic: EU Court of Auditors

DUBLIN: The European Court of Auditors (ECA) said airlines are legally required to provide refunds to passengers if flights are cancelled. It comes after the ECA found that, despite “unprecedented levels of state aid” given to the airline industry, millions of passengers had not received refunds for flights cancelled during the pandemic.

Holiday cancellations, travel disruptions, and refunds were heavily debated topics throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Airlines struggled to stay in business, while passengers were frustrated as they had lost money and were unable to fly for necessities.

According to a report published by the EU Court of Auditors, 7,000 air routes were closed in the European airport network between March 2020 and March 2021, affecting tens of millions of passengers in the EU.

The report says air passengers’ rights weren’t “safeguarded” in the EU during the pandemic because the airlines refused to refund their money despite being legally liable. At the same time, many airlines forced their customers to accept vouchers, which are illegal, the report said.

Annemie Turtelboom, a member of the European Court of Auditors said: “Among its many consequences, the pandemic has had a harmful effect on EU air passenger rights. While every effort has been made to support airlines and package-tour operators, far too little has been done to secure the rights of millions of people in the EU.”

The ECA said in these cases, European law provides air travellers with the right to have their cancelled airline tickets compensated or their cancelled trips rerouted.

The airline companies were saved from potential bankruptcy since the Government funding allowed them to continue operations even when no passengers were flying. “Airlines and package-tour operators received billions of euros of state aid, aid which was provided without being conditional on passengers being reimbursed,” the report said.

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