European Court of Auditors reprimands disregard for passenger rights in the pandemic

European Court of Auditors reprimands disregard for passenger rights in the pandemic

The facts

During the pandemic, around 7,000 flights were cancelled between March 2020 and March 2021. Millions of travellers were affected and according to the auditors unlawfully forced to accept vouchers instead of refunds for cancelled flights. Although the airline industry received billions in state aid between March 2020 and April this year.

Partial guilt of the federal government?

The German Air Transport Association defends its action by saying that it was an "absolutely special situation". Compared to the previous year, the number of passengers plummeted by 99 per cent and the number of flights by 88 per cent. The companies suffered correspondingly great hardship. The association has also partly blamed the federal government for the legal breaches. The latter had considered vouchers permissible instead of refunds due to the pandemic.

According to the Court, 15 EU states, including the Netherlands, France and Belgium, had even helped in the process by adopting EU-unlawful rules by exempting airlines and tour operators from the obligation to compensate passengers for cancelled flights. In some cases, these vouchers were not even protected against the insolvency of the companies.


Against this background, the EU Commission reprimanded the airlines and presented a list of demands: In it, the airlines are urged not to advertise refunds in the form of a voucher as the only choice and to avoid delays in repayment. In addition, new rules are being considered with a view to future crises.

The Court's rebuke is to be welcomed. In view of the state aid, the air industry was quite capable of refunding the money. The consideration of new consumer-friendly regulations will help to protect passengers' rights more extensively.

Report of the Court of Auditors:

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