The French consumers’ association UFC-Que Choisir assigned about twenty airlines that only offered credit notes, whereas the European Union imposes the possibility of a refund.
They had booked their plane ticket in advance. The customer service phone rang in a vacuum. And while the airlines had to suspend their entire flight schedule from mid-March onwards, one question is bothering North African airline passengers: will their tickets be refunded?
According to the regulations, yes. Any company flying to or from the European Union must offer its customers within seven days to opt for a refund or a credit note in the event of flight cancellation. But in practice, over the last two months, many companies have only offered credit notes… This is the case of Tunisair, RAM and Air Algerie, although the latter now also offers “recourse to a refund, the processing time of which depends on the number of requests in progress”.
The French consumers’ association UFC-Que Choisir, which has collected 15,000 testimonies from dissatisfied travellers, decided to summon, on 15 May, before the Paris court, twenty airlines, including the three Maghreb flags, Air France (which made it possible to get a refund for flights cancelled from 15 May onwards) and its subsidiary Transavia, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Air Austral, Corsair after an initial formal notice in March from 57 carriers, including Egyptair, Air Sénégal and Rwandair, currently without any return. The summons is being served in each country.
“The logic of our approach is regulatory. We are not against the principle of assets, but the consumer must have a choice,” says Raphaël Bartlomé, head of the legal department of UFC-Que Choisir, who raises two concerns.
The first: while the coronavirus crisis is putting a strain on cash flow, and even compromising the existence of carriers, assets offer no guarantee if the company does not survive. The memory of the passengers of Aigle Azur who were left behind in September and who were never reimbursed after the company’s bankruptcy leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
The second: “We don’t know what the ticket price will be in a year’s time. What if it doubles? “wonders Raphaël Bartlomé, for whom “compliance with regulations is one of the vectors of confidence that passengers have in the airline and one of the keys to the recovery of the sector”.
In Morocco, a bill to suspend the obligation of reimbursement
For the third time in a row, on 13 May the European Commission called on the carriers to refund the tickets, whereas the industry, through the International Air Transport Association (IATA), had in particular asked for a revision of the regulation and then argued for an extension of the refund period.
In Morocco, a bill was tabled on May 11 by the Ministry of Tourism aiming at suspending the reimbursement of cancelled services in the midst of a coronavirus epidemic and at proposing an equivalent service rather than a reimbursement. Adopted at the end of April by the government, this text, which would be in contradiction with the European regulations, has yet to receive the approval of the Moroccan government.