Spain’s ombudsman slams airlines for still not reimbursing passengers for cancelled flights

The country’s commissioner for the state has written to the Spanish government to condemn the fact that airlines are still "refusing to reimburse tickets for flights that were cancelled due to the pandemic".

Spain's ombudsman slams airlines for still not reimbursing passengers for cancelled flights
Photo: AFP

In their letter to the government, Spain’s national ombudsman explains how they’ve received “numerous complaints” from disgruntled passengers who say airlines' “websites have been set up in such a way that it’s impossible to apply for a money refund”.

Other airlines are offering airmiles and other vouchers that don’t cover the cost of the flight as well as carrying out “numerous” other illicit practices, the letter signed by head ombudsman Francisco Fernández Marugán states.

According to industry sources, there are a million flight tickets to and from Spain that were sold and cancelled due to the pandemic.

In late May, the European Commission estimated that Europe-based airlines owed €9.2 billion in cancelled flights.

The country’s commissioner for the state went on to remind Madrid that “the law authorises them to prepare legal actions on behalf of the interests of consumers”.

In fact, Spain’s Consumer Affairs Ministry did announce in early June that it was planning litigation against these airlines for failing to inform travellers about their right to a refund for flights cancelled during the pandemic, but a lawsuit is yet to be filed.

The airlines facing litigation are Air Europa, Air France, Binter Canarias, EasyJet, Eurowings, Iberia (Iberia Express y Air Nostrum), Jet 2, KLM, Latam Airlines, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Transavia, Thomson Airways (TUI), United Airlines, Volotea and Wizzair.

According to Spanish national radio station Cadena Ser, there’s an internal debate raging in the government over how to handle the situation.

Some officials are committed to allowing airlines to issue one-year flight vouchers to affected passengers so that they don’t have to deal with the reimbursements now, whereas others argue that if the airlines need the money to pay passengers back they should request credits from the country’s Official Credit Institute (ICO, part of Spain’s Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs).

Several European airlines including Air France, Germany’s Lufthansa or Holland’s KLM have receive state aid during the Covid-19 crisis due to the huge losses and debt they’ve incurred.

Spanish airlines’ requests for financial support from ICO have so far not been met in most cases, and for those that have received credit the funds have been labelled as “insufficient”.

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US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Authorities in the USA have announced the end of the Covid-testing requirement for arrivals from Europe, meaning that fully vaccinated people will soon be able to travel between Europe and the US without needing pre-travel tests.

US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Most of Europe had dropped the testing requirement for fully-vaccinated arrivals in the spring, but the US has maintained the requirement to show proof of a negative test for all arrivals.

However on Friday, the Biden administration announced that it would not renew the testing requirement.

The new rule is expected to come into effect at 12.01 Sunday EDT, until then passengers will still need to show a negative Covid test before they can board a plane to the US.

The US currently bars unvaccinated travellers from entry – although this does not apply to US citizens, US residents or those travelling for essential reasons – there was no announcement on lifting this restriction. 

The CDC said that testing requirements could be reinstated if new variants of Covid emerge, and added that it continues to recommend pre-travel testing. 

Covid travel rules vary between individual countries in Europe, but most countries now only require pre-departure tests for unvaccinated travellers. Check the rules of the country you are travelling to for full details. 

To be counted as ‘fully vaccinated’ travellers must have received both doses of an EMA-approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (or a single dose of Janssen).

If their vaccination was more than nine months ago, they need a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated – people who have had a booster do not need a second, even if their booster shot was more than nine months ago.