Coronavirus: KLM yields to refunds for cancelled flights

Coronavirus: KLM yields to refunds for cancelled flights
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Dutch airline KLM will drop its voucher-only refund policy and offer cash refunds for customers who ask for them following a set of EU recommendations on flight cancellations.

The Netherlands' flag carrier had been offering travellers a refund only in the form of a 12-month travel voucher, prompting concern among ticketholders that the airline was violating their right to cash refunds.

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But in a press statement released Thursday, KLM said that it was updating this policy to begin offering customers the choice between a voucher and getting their money back.

"KLM Royal Dutch Airlines always operates in compliance with national and international laws and regulations," the company wrote, adding that it would strive to make its vouchers more attractive by "adding extra perks."

The airline said that the changes were a result of guidelines published by the EU Commission on Wednesday aiming to steer the tourism and travel sector, left badly bruised as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Netherlands' infrastructure minister, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, had given travel companies the green-light to adopt the voucher-only policy, in an effort to help them contain staggering economic losses resulting from the pandemic's effect on global travel.

Speaking in the Dutch parliament at the start of May, van Nieuwenhuizen told MPs that KLM was up against some €3 billion in refunds to travellers, underscoring the need for customers to accept the vouchers over their legal right for reimbursement.

In its recommendations, the Commission reaffirmed customers' legal right to cash refunds but encouraged airlines and other tourism firms to make vouchers as attractive as possible.

The Commission also said that customers who accept the vouchers should be protected in case the issuing firm goes bankrupt, that the vouchers must have a minimum validity period of 1 year (after which, if not redeemed, they should be refunded), and that they should be made transferrable to another passenger.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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