Passengers could get flight refunds in 14 days in EU law shake-up

Move comes as Ryanair clashes with online agents

Travellers could get refunds for cancelled flights within two weeks in a proposed shake-up of European Union passenger protections.

The European Commission on Wednesday adopted a new proposal designed to bolster passenger rights following widespread rows over airline refund policies sparked by Covid cancellations.

Passengers will be entitled to refunds for cancelled flights within 14 days, even if they have bought the ticket as part of a package through a travel agent, if it becomes law.

Where airlines offer vouchers, they must clarify that customers can insist on refunds.


Airlines’ different approaches to EU refund rules led to anger among people whose flights were cancelled in March 2020, amid a worldwide grounding of air travel to combat Covid’s spread.

The commission says the new rules build on lessons learned during the pandemic and from the collapse in 2019 of the Thomas Cook Travel Group, which stranded thousands of holidaymakers.

The 14-day rule will also apply to anyone buying flights from a travel agent or as part of a package.

In that instance, carriers and other service providers must reimburse the agents in seven days to allow payment to their customers.

The proposal gives those using different transport, for example, flights, trains and buses, in one journey the right to better information on cancellations, delays and connection times.

Industry body Airlines for Europe (A4E), whose members include Ryanair and Aer Lingus owner International Airlines Group, welcomed the proposal but called for wider reform.

Ourania Georgoutsakou, A4E’s managing director, argued that it failed to tackle the need to revise EU261, the core of Europe’s passenger rights’ laws.

She said its “lack of clarity” had led to more European Court of Justice decisions than any other regulation.

Airlines do not have to compensate or refund passengers when “extraordinary circumstances” force them to cancel flights, but disputes over how this applies often end in court.

“Member states should seize the opportunity to deliver a clear and simple set of rules,” Ms Georgoutsakou said.

The European Council, made up of EU members’ prime ministers, and the parliament must agree on a commission proposal before it becomes law.

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News of the possible boost to passengers’ rights came as Ryanair clashed with online travel agents (OTAs) and others over their charges for booking the carrier’s flights.

Ryanair does not authorise online agents to sell its flights and frequently accuses them of overcharging.

The group said its latest survey showed that charged €24.40 for allocated seats on flights where the airline charged just €5.50, 344 per cent extra, and inventing a €30 processing fee.

Opodo charged €19.99 for Ryanair’s €5.50 allocated seats and €60 for a non-existent cancellation fee, said the airline.

Edreams, which is part of the same group as Opodo, sought €105 for a flight change, for which Ryanair adds €45. demanded €39.64 for a 10kg bag against Ryanair’s €18.39, the survey found. says it charges processing fees as it allows customers to book single trips on multiple airlines, provides check-in and guarantees replacement flights in case of disruption.

A spokeswoman said Ryanair was bidding to divert attention from scrutiny of a verification process that the carrier imposes on customers who book its flights through OTAs.

“It comes as no surprise that we see yet another PR blitz from them in an attempt to divert attention and slur the reputations of the competition,” she said.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said OTAs were unlawfully scraping the airline’s website, charging for services it provides free and massively overpricing ancillary services.

He said it was extraordinary that the British government, and its consumer agencies, continued to ignore this internet piracy.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas