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Covered in the Article
- Countless Cancelled Flights during the Spring
- Our Refunding Experiences
- Readers' Stories
- Why So Many Negative Experiences?
- Is It Wise to Buy New Tickets?
- Bottom Line
Countless Cancelled Flights during the Spring
Everyone can imagine how many flights were cancelled globally during the spring after the pandemic was declared. Airlines sent customers automated cancellation notifications but applying for compensation is still a manual and time-consuming process. According to what we have learned, a huge amount of travellers have not received their compensations yet.
In this article, we tell about our own experiences after two of our flights were cancelled. We asked also our readers to answer a short survey how well or badly airlines have served them.
Our Refunding Experiences
AirBaltic Flights Were Cancelled
In February 2020, we booked flights from Helsinki to Amsterdam and back to visit Eurovision Song Contest 2020. AirBaltic had to cancel our flights because of the border restrictions between the countries. A cancellation was the only decent option and we can't blame on airBaltic.
We got a cancellation notification by email in April as we were already expecting. The notification itself was somehow misleading telling that applying for the refund as a gift voucher is the only available option. To proceed, we needed to click Apply for Gift Voucher link in the email to get the additional information that applying for a money refund is also possible.
We filled the refund application. After that, we got a funny confirmation email stating that airBaltic will contact us soon to ask for a payment. We had no idea what payment they were referring to but nobody from the airline ever contacted us afterwards. Weeks were passing by but not no progress was happening while airBaltic was only repeatedly emailing us that we should apply for a voucher. Finally, we decided to contact airBaltic's customer service to tell them that we are going to use Mastercards' Chargeback scheme if the airline is not able to refund us soon. Immediately, airBaltic replied with a clear refund confirmation notification. The money was refunded to our payment card 15 days after that.
After some pressure on airBaltic, the airline handled the refund efficiently.
Ryanair Flights Were Cancelled
We had also flights booked from Helsinki to Vienna by Laudamotion which is owned by Ryanair. Our plan was to fly in July. In May, Ryanair informed us that our flight is cancelled. There was not any mandatory reason for the cancellation but the airline had cancelled the route most likely because of pure business reasons.
Ryanair told clearly that we can change the flight dates free of charge or apply for a refund. We decided to go on with the refund option and filled a simple refund application online.
Ryanair didn't confirm our application at all. After a few weeks, they sent us another notification that we should change the flight dates or apply for a refund even though we had already applied for it. Finally, after 3 weeks, we got a confirmation email stating that our refund application had been received.
The confirmation message stated that we should choose between an automatically generated voucher with the value of the flight price or apply for the refund as money. If we choose the money, we would get them after the crisis is over by contacting Ryanair again. Unfortunately, no one knows what it means.
It seems to us that Ryanair was unwilling to refund the money in a reasonable amount of time so we decided to contact the payment processor. We had paid by Paypal. We have now a dispute going on with Ryanair on Paypal to get our money back faster.
Ryanair is pushing pressure to accept a voucher. That is against EU regulations and really bad customer service.
We asked also our readers to tell about their experiences. Some travellers replied that they are totally happy with the airlines' compensation options but not everyone has got smooth service. We collected a few interesting stories here.
Would you also have a story to share? Contact us!
A reader of us told that it was easy to apply for a credit voucher from Aegean Airlines. However, the compensation process for her is still going on up to the publication date of this article.
According to the stories of our readers, a credit voucher is the only option that Aegean Airlines is offering. The value of the voucher will be the same as the flight ticket's value. If the voucher won't be used, Aegean Airlines gives the customer a right to apply for a money refund after 12 months of the date of voucher's issuance.
This is the same model as Ryanair is using but Aegean Airlines has described the terms clearer.
Norwegian Air Shuttle
Norwegian Air Shuttle has publicly announced that it won't be operating many of it routes on the upcoming years. However, they have still not cancelled all the tickets. That means that applying for a refund is impossible while the bookings are still valid.
This is a natural strategy of many airlines. Doing last-minute cancellations keeps the money in airlines' cash. That is a free loan from the customers but not fair.
Another reader of us, Sam, had a flight booked from Dublin by Turkish Airlines. She planned to fly in late May but eventually, the flight was cancelled. She was able to reschedule the flight too early June but the new flight was cancelled too.
While Turkish Airlines' office in Dublin was closed, Sam called Turkish Airlines' Istanbul's office to get information about the available options. A customer service assistant told that refunding the money would be made in 60 days after the restrictions will be lifted. They didn't tell clearly what restrictions they were referring to. Like with Ryanair, this may mean even 1 or 2 years waiting time. EC261/2004 regulation commands airlines to refund money much faster, say in a few weeks.
Turkish Airlines also offered Sam an open ticket option. An open ticket is a good deal if there is no need to pay fare or tax differences. That is what Turkish Airlines promised. Later when she confirmed this by the feedback form on Turkish Airlines' website, the answer was different.
We would like to inform you that if you perform your travel after December 31, 2021, your current ticket conditions will apply, and if any seat price difference or tax difference arises for the new flight you will select, you may be required to pay an additional fare.
Later, Turkish Airlines clarified their message with an additional email.
We would like to inform you that you can make free changes to your ticket until 31 December 2021 at any time.
Sam made also an interesting remark, The airline was continuously selling flights to Dublin and cancelling them soon after that. Even though the customer service assistant claimed that Turkish Airlines will continue flying in June, there is a suspicion that it is not true. According to unofficial sources, Turkish Airline has a plan to continue flights to Ireland in July.
Sam felt that the customer service of Turkish Airlines was not unpolite but it was not caring either. However, it is good to understand that these times are stressful for airlines' employees too and we can't blame them if they have their unfriendly moments.
Finnair is the airline from our home base. The airline has openly promised to refund tickets or to issue travel vouchers.
According to affected passengers we knew, they told that reaching Finnair's customer service has been very challenging. The airline may claim to be busy with applications but Finnair has laid off many of its employees. They have caused the congestion themselves. Because of the lack of customer service assistants, contacting the airline is very challenging. The service attitude has not been so friendly either.
Why So Many Negative Experiences?
Some travellers have been able to solve challenges caused by the cancelled flights without any issues but many travellers feel that airlines are serving them badly. There may be a few reasons why airlines do not give good customer service.
Airlines are running out of cash. They are unwilling to refund the money while their bank accounts may soon be empty. Airlines want to keep the refunding process so complicated that people will give up and accept the vouchers. Automating the refunding process would be easy, but what's the benefit for airlines?
In addition, many airlines keep selling new tickets even though they may not have any real plans to fly these ghost flights. Incoming cash flow is needed so selling new tickets is the easiest way to get money.
Airlines may also just be confused. Many of them were not prepared for the pandemic. This situation is new for them.
We have a few pieces of advice for our readers on how to deal with the airlines.
- If you are happy with a travel voucher, just accept it to help the airlines in this difficult situation.
- You have also the right to get a refund fast. Put pressure on the airline if the process does not go on. If no success, contact your bank for assistance and maybe they can cancel the payment transaction on behalf of the airline.
- Keep everything documented. Prefer written communication.
Is It Wise to Buy New Tickets?
Traffic restrictions are slowly being lifted and now it may be time to start buying tickets again. We recommend flying with the airlines that have served customers well in this difficult situation. Good airlines should be awarded by new sales.
It is wise always to pay for new tickets with a credit card. Applying for the money back from a credit card company is much easier than getting them directly from the airline. If the financial situation of an airline is already now bad, it is good to be extra cautious with that airline.
- What can I do if an airline refuses to refund my cancelled ticket?
- If you paid the ticket with a card, you may contact your bank for assistance. In Europe, you may also ask for help from European Consumer Centre.
- How fast does an airline should refund a ticket?
- Airlines are busy with refund applications. You should still expect an airline to refund the latest in 1-2 months. Airlines can't ask you to wait for many years.
- Is there something that I should not do?
- In any circumstances, do not cancel your ticket yourself. Wait for the airline to cancel it. Otherwise, you may not be entitled to compensation.
The crisis has been a difficult time for the airlines. Hard times are still not an excuse to serve customers badly and to ignore laws and regulations. The way to handle the crisis tells much about the ethics of airlines and their management.
Luckily, borders are opening slowly. Soon it's time to start planning new journeys. We bet airlines will be happy to get customers back.
Do you feel that you have received good customer service from an airline during the crisis? Comment below! Or contact us so we can publish your story too.