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I’ve long thought that most airlines (not all) are run by people with little or no soul and by people who have little to no regard for their customers. Sadly, it’s taken a worldwide pandemic to prove me right.
Right now, large sections of the airline industry are using whatever methods they can come up with to save their own hides regardless of the legality of their actions or the consequences those actions may have on others.
As customers line up to request full refunds for their cancelled flights (refunds that US and EU laws say they’re entitled to) various airlines have been doing everything possible to stop these customers from getting their money back. They’ve removed the ability to request refunds from their websites, they’ve told customers than they cannot physically process refunds, they’ve told customers that they’re not entitled to refunds (a lie) and they’ve dragged their heels on refunds for so long that passengers feel they have no choice but to accept a voucher for future travel instead.
These are all scumbag moves but, unbelievably, some of these airlines have upped their game even further.
Here’s How Some Airlines Are Trying To Rip You Off (Legally)
Sky News has reported that as well as begging the UK government for taxpayer money, airlines like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, and Ryanair are seeking government permission to refuse passengers refunds even though the law says that a refund must be paid. They’re asking for a suspension of the law.
A letter, seen by Sky News, from Airlines UK (a UK airline lobbying group) to the government, says the following:
“Carriers should also be permitted to issue vouchers instead of refunds and, should refunds be required, carriers should be permitted to defer payment until the crisis period is over and as defined by air traffic volumes, rather than time period”
This is just incredible!
Can you imagine the response of the airlines if you or I got into financial difficulty and then asked them for a refund of a non-refundable fare? We’d be told to go pound sand! Yet here we have those same airlines (all multi-million-dollar corporations) asking the government for the legal right to refuse refunds to people who may desperately need their cash back.
This Is Pure Arrogance
There are tens of thousands of people unable to work right now, and corporations around the world are laying people off every. single. day. so what gives the airlines the right to think that they need cash more than any of these people that may have had flights booked?
There are hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who can’t be sure when they’ll be getting their next paycheck and a lot of these people may now be relying on a cash refund (from a trip they booked when times were good) to keep them going in the next few weeks – why should the airlines get to keep their money?
The arrogance on show here is staggering.
Airlines have shareholders, governments, banks, hedge funds, private equity companies and billionaires they can go to if they want to beg for money, while the ordinary person booking their one vacation of the year doesn’t have most of those options…so why should they be denied the cash refunds the law says they’re entitled to?
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that the airlines are simply asking the government to suspend the law for future bookings – they very clearly want this to be a retroactive ruling because they want to keep all the cash they’re currently sitting on.
In effect, what the airlines are saying to passengers is this:
“Yes, we know that you booked your trip when the rules stated that you’re entitled to a full refund if the flights get cancelled but, now that we’re in a little bit of trouble, we’re asking the government to ignore that fact and asking it to force you to live by a new set of rules we’ve just made up”
In what other industry or walk of life would this even be considered? What is it about airlines and airline executives that makes them think they’re so special?
This Doesn’t Just Affect Travelers
It may be easy to think that the airlines’ wish to deny travelers the cash refunds they’re entitled to really only affects those specific travelers…but it actually goes much deeper than that. You may not be a traveler struggling to get your money back from the airlines but, if you run a business, this may well affect you too.
Whether we like it or not we’re all part of a strongly interconnected economy and the money that the airlines don’t want to return to customers may well be money that would otherwise be used to pay for rent, utilities, groceries, and all the other everyday bills that most of us have.
Why should a landlord go without rent just because a tenant’s only remaining source of cash is tied up in an airline?
Why should a local eatery or take away go without a person’s custom just because that person suddenly has a lot less disposable cash and has a sum tied up in an airline?
Why should any businesses lose custom because people’s money is tied up in an airline that’s refusing to release it?
The money that the airlines are trying to withhold isn’t just money belonging to travelers, it’s money that would probably have been spent elsewhere in the economy (parts of the economy that need as much help as anyone right now) and, if the airlines get their way, it will be money that these parts of the economy won’t get.
How is that ok?
Why should the airlines get to keep cash that they’re not entitled to and deny other businesses much-needed income?
This Isn’t Just A UK Issue
Right now we’re only hearing the UK airlines come out and admit that they’d like permission to rip their customers off but this far from being a UK-only issue.
There have been strong rumors that Canada is thinking of allowing its airlines to refuse refunds and you can be sure that airlines like Lufthansa and Air France/KLM are going down the exact same path as the UK airlines with their respective governments (Lufthansa has been at the forefront of denying passengers refunds).
The US airlines may be less inclined to pursue this arrogant line because their government appears to have caved to their incessant begging and given them a LOT of taxpayer money with very few serious strings attached (it’s pathetic really)…but don’t think for a moment that this isn’t a route they’ll go down if they think they can get away with it.
Most US airlines are just as deplorable as the rest of the world’s airlines so there’s no depth to which they won’t stoop.
What’s Wrong With What The Airlines Want To Offer?
What the airlines are asking permission to do is to defer refunds until some unspecified point in the future or to issue vouchers for future travel in the place of refunds…but these are both horrible deals for the customer.
I’ve already used a previous post to explain why people who are entitled to cash refunds should be doing everything possible not to allow the airlines to palm them off with a travel voucher but, just to hit home the point, here are the key issues:
- Cash at some unspecified date in the future is of no use to people who may be without work right now.
- A piece of paper promising future travel isn’t of much use to someone who can’t go to work or who has been made unemployed.
- Travel vouchers have an expiry date while cash does not so why would you be happy taking a travel voucher in place of cash?
- A future promise of cash or a travel voucher isn’t going to be much use to anyone if the airline goes bankrupt.
In effect, if you accept a voucher for future travel or if you defer a refund until some point in the future, you’re giving the airline an interest-free loan. It’s an interest-free loan that comes with few guarantees, offers you very little upside, and which should be avoided if at all possible.
As usual, it’s all about the airlines and not about the customers. The airlines are the kings and queens of the “me, me, me” approach to life and there’s no better example of this than what we’re seeing play out in front of us right now.
The airlines think they deserve our cash more than anyone else and because the laws disagree with them they’re seeking to have the laws suspended. Their arrogance knows no bounds.