European travel agents urge EU response to Air Belgium refund delay
The Association of European Travel Agents (ECTAA) is calling on the European Commission to take action to ensure that Air Belgium passengers are quickly reimbursed by the airline. Air Belgium announced this week that it would stop operating passenger flights from 3 October, but it is not immediately reimbursing affected passengers.
Air Belgium announced on Monday that it would start a judicial reorganisation procedure. In the future, it will only operate cargo flights and aircraft leasing between airlines (ACMI). All passenger flights will be cancelled as of 3 October. It is estimated that around 20,000 passengers will be affected.
Travel agents say that Air Belgium is not yet refunding these bookings. "Once again, an airline has interrupted the refund process, while travel agents have to pay additional sums for future flights that have already been cancelled," said a spokesperson for the trade association, which represents 80,000 travel agents around Europe.
"This blatant disregard for passengers' rights violates EU regulations, which provide for refunds within seven days of a flight being cancelled"
Air Belgium will only be able to start settling its debts once the court approves the reorganisation procedure. According to some media, it could be a year before passengers get their money back. "This blatant disregard for passengers' rights violates European Regulation 261/2004, which provides for refunds within seven days of a flight being cancelled," says ECTAA.
The association is therefore calling on the European Commission to address the issue as a matter of urgency. "The Commission must act quickly and decisively to protect the rights and interests of passengers and tour operators."
© BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE