Airlines owe travel agencies €340 million for cancelled flights during state of alarm

Catalan consumers’ authority received 7,000 claims for suspended journeys

A passenger in a near empty T1 in Barcelona Airport, July 31, 2020 (by Norma Vidal)
A passenger in a near empty T1 in Barcelona Airport, July 31, 2020 (by Norma Vidal) / ACN


November 7, 2020 12:27 PM

Airlines still owe travel agencies €340 million for flights that were cancelled during the state of alarm. 

Flight operators are facing more than 35,000 claims in Spain, 7,000 of those being from Catalonia. Spain’s Aviation Safety Agency (AESA) has allowed for sanctions to be put in place for companies that refuse to comply with European norms.

Martín Sarrate, president of the corporate association of specialized travel agencies (ACAVE) stated that “since March, we’ve reported 39 airlines to Spain’s Aviation Safety Agency.” So far, the airlines have been delayed, he suggests. . “They should force [airlines] to refund customers in 14 days, which is long past, either directly or through travel agencies.”

Norms suggest that if flights are cancelled passengers should get a refund or an alternative transport in satisfactory conditions.

Many clients have found the refund process extremely hard and some have taken months to receive any money. 

Montserrat Ribera from the Catalan consumers’ authority said that since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March until now, they’ve received 7000 complaints, with 3,500 -about half- for canceled flights: “Some airlines say ‘I don’t have to refund you, I offer you a voucher to travel another day’. No, that’s not what the law says.”

Travel agencies must also refund money to their customers. However without airline refunds Sarrate says they have found themselves bailing air travel companies out.

Some agencies are also not paying their debts. An example is eDreams, who have stated that they are only intermediaries when tickets are bought as part of ‘travel packages’ and are refusing to return money. 

Airlines have been blaming their late returns on the “unprecedented and exceptional situation.”