On the 13th May 2020, the European Commission presented a package of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen, while respecting necessary health precautions. The package includes a Recommendation1C (2020) 3125 final – Commission Recommendation of 13.5.2020 on vouchers offered to passengers and travellers as an alternative to reimbursement for cancelled package travel and transport services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. which aims to make travel vouchers issued as from 1 March 2020 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, an attractive alternative to cash reimbursement for consumers.
In the Recommendation, the Commission reaffirms the rights established under EU rules to travellers impacted by cancelled flights that vouchers should be subject to the voluntary acceptance of passengers.2In this news item we focus on air travel, but the Recommendation covers also land, sea and rail transport. However, the Commission also acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unsustainable cash-flow and revenue situation for the transport and travel sectors and the idea is to make vouchers more viable and attractive so as to make them easily accepted by consumers and ease liquidity for carriers and other travel operators. To achieve this, the Commission recommends that vouchers (at least those presenting the characteristics included in the Recommendation) are protected against insolvency of the carrier or of the organiser, which could be set up by the private or the public sector.
The Commission recommends the following characteristics:
- Vouchers should have a minimum validity period of 12 months, and be refundable within 14 days after the 12 month period, if not redeemed.
- If vouchers have a validity period longer than 12 months, passengers should have the right to ask for reimbursement within 12 months after the issuance of the voucher, and also afterwards, subject to any prescriptive time limits.
- Passengers should be able to use vouchers for payments in respect of all new bookings made before their expiry date even if the payment or the service takes place after that date.
- Passengers should be able to use the vouchers towards payment for any transport services or package travel offered by the carrier or organiser.
- Subject to availability and irrespective of price differene, vouchers should allow passengers to travel on the same route under the same service conditions as included in the original booking.
- Vouchers should be used with other entities in the same group of companies.
- If the cancelled transport service was made through an agency, it should be possible to utilise the voucher through the same agency.
- Vouchers for transport services should be transferable at no extra cost.
- Vouchers should be in writing or other durable medium, include all rights attached to them.
The Commission also recommends carriers and organisers to possibly offer added value to vouchers than the value of the service originally booked, to make them more attractive.
In its Recommendation, the Commission urges consumer organisations at EU and national level to encourage travellers and passengers to accept vouchers that present these characteristics, instead of reimbursement.
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