EU Cites Cyprus, Greece for Allowing Travel Vouchers, Not Refunds

Αssociated Press

Sunday, May 10, 2020 photo, a lone swimmer wades through the clear waters of Konnos beach in Ayia Napa, a seaside resort that s popular with tourists from Europe and beyond. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA -- With major travel companies such as Aegean Airlines forcing customers to take vouchers instead of refunding ticket prices when flights were canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Union is going after them, including on Cyprus.

Aegean and some travel companies have violated the EU law by offering only vouchers, doing so with the backing of their countries’ governments but the European Commission said it won’t let that happen.

The EU said it would begin an infringement procedure against ten EU member states that have not taken action to ensure that travelers receive full cash refunds within two weeks.

National legislation in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia still violates EU rules, reported the Cyprus Mail.

“Many companies in the transport sector have been faced with unsustainable cash flows and revenue situations. Throughout this crisis, the Commission has consistently made clear that passenger rights remain valid in the current unprecedented context and national measures to support the industry must not lower them.

“These nations have adopted legislation allowing carriers to offer vouchers as the only form of reimbursement,” the Commission said, giving the countries 10 days, or until July 13 to meet the requirements or face fines.

The Cyprus Consumers’ Association has repeatedly called for vendors to provide refunds instead of vouchers and said people should demand their money back from travel agents even if they had already agreed to a voucher.

The association said customers and clients were legally entitled to a refund instead of a voucher despite the recent law amendment allowing businesses to issue vouchers instead of cash refunds for cancelled bookings.

The European Consumer Organisation has called the launching of infringement proceedings “good news,” insisting that “consumers should not be used as cheap credit to bail out the travel industry,” with Aegean asking Greece’s government for even more financial aid.