How airline lobby wants to restrict passenger rights retroactively

The Covid 19 crisis is having a huge impact on the aviation industry. The fact that some airlines will hardly survive without state aid is also gradually becoming apparent. It is therefore understandable that the airlines affected are trying to obtain state aid. Whether and in what form this should be granted to them remains an issue in itself. Since countless companies currently receive direct or indirect support from the state (whether through short-time work, state guarantees for loans, etc.), there is no legitimate reason to exclude the airlines from such aid.

However, this does not seem to be enough for some airline representatives and airline-friendly politicians. They would like to see further assistance in the form of amendments to the law to the disadvantage of passengers. Specifically, there is a debate about whether the first part of Article 8 of the Air Passenger Rights Regulation (Regulation (EC) 261/2004) should be temporarily suspended. This is the article in question:

Article 8

Right to reimbursement or re-routing

  1. Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall be offered the choice between:

(a) – reimbursement within seven days […] of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made […]

This would mean that airlines would not have to pay back payments already received for cancelled flights (!). Instead, they could only compensate customers with vouchers. However, this approach is questionable in several aspects and must therefore be rejected:

  1. The law, i.e. the “rules of the game”, would be changed retroactively. This is delicate, without exception, as legal certainty is undermined in this way. It is also unfair to the customers, as they understandably considered the current law (and not a future one with an unknown content) to be applicable at the time of ticket purchase.
  2. Not every trip can be made up at a later date, whether for personal or business reasons. While one can assume that Swiss vouchers could somehow be used for another trip, vouchers from other airlines with Zurich as the departure airport would be severely restricted and could often only be used for one direct destination (e.g. only Dubai with Emirates, only Amsterdam with KLM, only Doha with Qatar, only Moscow with Aeroflot, only Reykjavik with Icelandair etc.)
  3. As long as the voucher has not been used, the customer remains with the risk that the airline will not survive the Covid 19 crisis.

It is obvious that the airlines are in a difficult situation. However, it is unacceptable that the airlines want to escape from this situation by adjusting the law at the cost of the consumers. sees this option as a taboo break and a clearly too one-sided distribution of costs and risks.

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