Airlines must accelerate refunds for canceled flights: Inspectorate

KLM Boeing 737-700, PH-BGP at Schiphol Airport
KLM Boeing 737-700, PH-BGP at Schiphol Airport. 14 June 2011SaschaporscheWikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA

KLM, Corendon, Transavia and TUI must be quicker in refunding customers whose flights were canceled, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate said after investigating ten airlines' refund policy and actions during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Inspectorate praised Lufthansa, British Airways, EasyJet, Ryanair and Delta Airlines for immediately offering customers a refund when their flights were canceled due to the pandemic. KLM, Corendon, Transavia, and TUI initially only gave customers vouchers, and only agreed to offer refunds after immense pressure from the European Commission and consumers' organizations

But now that they are offering refunds, the airlines are still taking too long to pay them. According to the Inspectorate, people who refuse a voucher and request a refund should get their money back within seven days. KLM, Corendon, Transavia and TUI say that this timeline is not possible at this stage, due to the exceptionally high number of refund requests they have to process. The Inspectorate is currently in talks with them about a "reasonable repayment term".

KLM told NOS in response that it hopes to catch up on the backlog of refunds soon. "No cancellation policies foresaw the scale of travel restrictions imposed on travelers around the world in recent months," a spokesperson said to the broadcaster. "We need more time than usual to process these numbers."

The tenth airline the Inspectorate investigated is Spanish discount airline Vueling Airlines. According to the Inspectorate, the company says it is willing to refund customers, but the Inspectorate received complaints from many passengers saying they are still waiting for their money. The Inspectorate is still investigating whether Vueling is complying with the rules.