The rights of flight passengers during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Flight operations have been subject to several transnational restrictions within the past few months, resulting therefore in postponements or cancelations. Since the phenomenon is characterized by its’ exceptional nature, as well as its’ global, effect, most countries, including the European Union have proceeded to the express adoption of legal measures and guidelines, in order to protect the rights of all parties involved. Specifically, on March 18th of 2020, the European Commission established a non-exhaustive list of guidelines to the Member States, which includes but is not limited to the following passenger rights:

i) In case of a flight cancelation, all air carriers within the EU are obliged to provide the passengers a refund, or the earliest possible re-routing, or a re-routing scheduled for a later date, according to the desires of the passenger affected.

ii) In case of a flight cancelation or rescheduling, the airline companies must offer to the affected passengers free meals, refreshments as well as accommodation until the operation of the earliest possible flight option.

iii) The right to compensation is a firm passengers’ right, in case the flight is cancelled less than a two week period prior to the departure date. However, in the event of an extraordinary circumstance, such as a global pandemic, the exception is applicable, due to the unpredictable character of the force majeure.

iv) In the event that the passenger wishes to cancel their trip on their own initiative, the refund policy shall depend on the airline carriers’ terms and conditions, as explicitly exposed in written, at the time of purchasing the ticket.

v) In case of a flight cancelation, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, passengers must have the option between a refund and a voucher. This measure concerns all transportation, as well as travel packages. Vouchers must have a minimum period of validity of one year and must be refunded after the expiration of that timeframe in case they are not used. The EU guidelines expect all carriers to be flexible and offer the passenger the same conditions of traveling as in the original ticket. Vouchers are also expected to be transferable from one physical person to another.

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that the European Union is the pioneer in the establishment of express passenger rights and their protection, regardless of the means of transportation.

The present article is for informational purposes only and does not, under any ьcircumstances, constitute legal advice. For further information on the subject, please contact Arsen Theofanidis LLC and one of our legal advisors shall be glad to assist you.

By N. Kalifatidou
Advocate – Legal Consultant
Arsen Theofanidis LLC