Travel restrictions – imposed by various countries worldwide in view of the COVID-19 pandemic – have led to many travellers finding it difficult to fly out.
Keeping the situation in perspective, the EU Commission has come out with certain guidelines detailing the rights of passengers amidst the COVID-19 situation.
Flight cancelled due to travel restrictions
Irrespective of the reason behind cancellation, if a flight is cancelled the airline must either offer a refund or the option of re-routing at the earliest opportunity available.
The refund involves reimbursement for both flights if the traveller has a return flight on the same booking. If, on the other hand, the return flight was on another booking, the refund will be for the outbound flight alone.
Re-routing due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions, on the other hand, might lead to a certain time delay owing to the uncertainty of air traffic. Nevertheless, the traveller can opt for a re-routing at an alternate time as per their convenience.
A voucher – allowing a traveller to use their credit for purchasing another flight ticket from that airline, even for a different destination – can be another option that the airline offers in the event of a flight cancellation.
Traveller cancelling the trip themselves
As per the guidelines by the EU Commission on passenger rights with respect to the COVID-19 situation, a traveller will not be entitled to an automatic refund if the traveller were to cancel their trip themselves.
Reimbursement in such situations will be dependent on the kind of ticket purchased – refundable or non-refundable – as well as the terms and conditions associated with the ticket.
Travellers requiring a cancellation or rescheduling of their flight must contact their airline directly and inquire into the options available.
In situations where the booking is cancelled by the traveller themselves, the airline might only offer a voucher, in place of reimbursement as in situations of flight cancellation.
Passenger rights in the context of COVID-19 situation
According to the guidelines announced by the EU Commission, if an airline cancels or delays a flight –
|The traveller will have the right to choose between a refund and a rerouting.|
|The traveller shall have the “right to care”. The airline would have to offer the traveller meals and refreshments for the duration of their wait. Hotel accommodation, as well as transport to the place of accommodation, will also be arranged by the airline.|
|The traveller will have the right to compensation unless the situation is an “extraordinary circumstance” outside the control of the airline.|
|The traveller does not have the right to reimbursement or compensation if the traveller cancels their booking on the flight themselves.|
Under the EU law, a traveller is fully entitled to a refund of their flight ticket if the flight is cancelled.
The right to care involves the airline offering care in proportion to the waiting time and the requirements of the traveller. However, the right of care will not be applicable in situations wherein the traveller opts for full reimbursement of the cost of their ticket or chooses a re-route at a later date as per their convenience.
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