Information on passenger rights Covid19
The Covid-19 pandemic has a major impact on air traffic. A huge number of flights had to be canceled. Although the European Regulation (EC)261/2004 regarding passenger rights remains unchanged, it should be noted that this kind of exceptional situation was not taken into account when the legislation was drawn up. It is without any doubt a challenge for airlines to apply the Regulation correctly during these difficult times.
The Passenger Rights Unit of the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority is currently receiving a large number of questions and complaints.
Below you will find the answer to frequently asked questions. If you cannot find the answer to your specific question, you may contact the Passenger Rights Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. What are my rights in case of cancellation of my flight by the airline?
2. What should I do if I am unable to contact the airline or to obtain an answer?
3. Who should refund my tickets? The airline or the ticket seller?
4. Can the Civil Aviation Authority, in its capacity of National Enforcement Body, in charge of the supervision on the application of Regulation (EC) 261/2004, help me to enforce my rights?
5. My flight was not canceled, but I decided not to travel anymore. What are my rights?
The European Regulation (EC) 261/2004 provides for the choice between a refund within 7 days or an alternative flight (more info). The European Commission has determined that a voucher may also be offered, but confirms the right of option (see here for more info).
We ask passengers to consider accepting a voucher as this might be a solution to the liquidity problems some airlines are currently facing. However, please pay close attention to the conditions of the voucher. On 13 May 2020, the European Commission made the following recommendations regarding the conditions of vouchers:
- minimum validity of 12 months;
- refundable if not used after maximum 12 months;
- protected against insolvency;
- possibility to travel on the same route and under the same conditions as in the original booking, regardless of price differences;
You can consult the conditions of the different airlines here (PDF, 268.55 KB).
A refund within 7 days is currently not a realistic deadline for many airlines and we suggest passengers to demonstrate a certain degree of flexibility. However, if you do not agree to wait longer for a refund, you may opt to enforce a payment through legal action.
If the airline was unable to offer you an alternative flight, and you had to arrange for alternative transportation yourself, you can request a refund of the additional cost from the airline, upon presentation of proofs of payment
The European Regulation (EC) 261/2004 provides for the payment of a compensation, unless the cancellation was due to extraordinary circumstances. The European Commission has indicated that it considers cancellations resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic to be due to extraordinary circumstances (see here for more info). This is a non-binding opinion. If you do not agree with this point of view, you may request compensation from the airline and take the case to court should you not come to an agreement.
You may consult the contact details we dispose of here (PDF, 268.55 KB). In normal times, a response time of up to 6 weeks is considered reasonable. Since some airlines are currently working with a reduced staff and have a very high number of requests to process, response times can be exceptionally long. Questions concerning (re)bookings will probably be treated with priority.
The European Regulation (EC) 261/2004 stipulates that the airline must refund tickets in case of cancellation, but does not specify how this should be done. In case a reservation was made through a travel agency or other intermediary, the refund will usually be paid to the intermediary, which in its turn will reimburse the passenger. The Passenger Rights Unit recommend that you contact the travel agency in the first place. If you do not obtain a satisfying answer from the travel agent, you can try to contact the airline directly. The Passenger Rights Unit has no competency regarding the supervision of travel agencies/ticket vendors. Should you wish to obtain more information concerning their obligations, please contact the FPS Economy.
4. Can the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA), in its capacity of National Enforcement Body, in charge of the supervision on the application of Regulation (EC) 261/2004, help me to enforce my rights?
The Passenger Rights Unit is in continuous contact with the airlines to remind them of their obligations and to try to come to a solution for all passengers concerned. Although the BCAA can sanction airlines when infringements against the Regulation (EC)261/2004 are established, it does not have the power to enforce a payment to the passenger. The Passenger Rights Unitare is therefore unable to provide further assistance in individual cases.
It is at the discretion of the Aviation safety Inspectorate of the CAA to decide whether a penal procedure will be initiated. The passenger is not a party in this procedure, but may be heard as a witness. Possible sanctions, such as fines, will not benefit the passenger. As this concerns a penal procedure, all information regarding the investigation is classified.
If you do not agree with the airline's offer, or if a payment is delayed and you do not wish to wait any longer, you may take the case to court in order to come to a solution for your dispute. The court’s decision is binding. You can contact a legal advisor or lawyer if you would like to obtain more information concerning legal proceedings. The European Consumer Center can also help you if the airline is based in another European Member State.
The competence of the Passenger Rights Unit unit is limited to the supervision of Regulation (EC) 261/2004. This Regulation does not apply in case of cancellation or modification of a reservation by the passenger. Therefore, the Passenger Rights Unit cannot help you further. More information can be obtained from the FPS Economy or the European Consumer Center.