The European Commission on Thursday decided to take further steps in the infringement procedure against Greece and Italy, for violating passenger rights amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The two countries on Thursday received a letter of formal notice by EU’s Executive, due to the legislation they adopted, allowing airlines to offer vouchers instead of reimbursement for cancelled flights, with passengers forced to agree to this solution.
However, under EU rules, passengers are entitled to a financial reimbursement, if they opt for that.
Greece and Italy now have two months to reply and prove that they have rectified the shortcomings in their legal framework, otherwise the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.
When the Commission presented its travel guidelines, it encouraged carriers to make vouchers an “attractive” option for passengers who see their travel arrangements cancelled, stressing, however, that “passenger rights remain valid in the current unprecedented context and national measures to support the industry must not lower them."
The EU’s Executive move was part of a wider action against ten EU member-states that breached the Package Travel Directive, with Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia, requested to comply with their obligations under EU law.
The coronavirus outbreak has led to severe disruptions in travelling, with airlines across the globe being on the edge of breakdown. For countries which heavily rely on tourism, such as Greece and Italy, the pandemic was a major blow to their already-weak economies. Flights were grounded for more than two months due to a non-essential EU travel ban and lockdown measures.
As the countries of Europe’s south are struggling to kick-start their economies and mitigate the economic aftermath of the unprecedented coronavirus crisis, they have decided to suspend the EU law to salvage airlines.