I totally get airlines are in a tough spot, and are trying to get their hands on as much cash as possible. However, lots of individuals are also in a tough spot right now, and aren’t in a position to provide airlines with a loan.
That’s why I think SWISS deserves some shaming for how they’re handling the current situation for those on canceled flights.
SWISS not refunding any tickets right now
Per SWISS’ refunds page, the airline is “unable” to process any refunds through any channels at the moment. Here’s how the policy is described:
We are currently unable to process any kind of refund on any channel. Please be aware that our focus is currently on handling urgent requests (i.e. rebooking & cancellations). You do not need to take any immediate action and consider our special rebooking policies due to corona outbreak.
I can totally understand that they’re overwhelmed at the moment, but if a passenger is calling for a flight in a few days and needs to cancel, they can’t start the refund process at that point?
This sure seems to me more like a policy intended to keep peoples’ money, rather than a policy due to overwhelming demand.
SWISS’ policy doesn’t even reference the option of a refund
With SWISS having canceled a large majority of their flights, a lot of people are in a position where they’d no doubt like a ticket refund. However, when you go to their dedicated SWISS page about coronavirus rebookings, you’ll notice that there’s conveniently no mention of an option to receive a refund, even if your flight is canceled.
The company is encouraging people to maintain their ticket values, and is offering a CHF/EUR/USD 50 discount when you rebook at a later date.
Even in the FAQs about rebookings and refunds, there’s no reference whatsoever to a refund:
I don’t need to fly anymore, what to do?
You don’t need to take any immediate action. With new flexible rebooking options you can make new travel plans at a later date and contact us anytime before August, 31 2020. For such rebooking we offer an additional CHF/EUR/USD 50 discount.
How to cancel my booking?
In the current corona situation there is no need for you to cancel your booking. You will also not lose any value of your ticket due to the current special rebooking conditions.
What happens with my ticket if I don’t take my flight?
For tickets booked by March, 31 2020 with travel date up to December, 31 2020 the value of your ticket will remain valid even in case you don’t take your flight. In addition you can rebook once to another route within the Lufthansa Group airline’s network without a change fee. In case the new fare is above your existing ticket price you will even receive a CHF/EUR/USD 50 discount.
In all those FAQs, they don’t think they should even once mention that passengers are legally entitled to a cash refund if their flight was canceled?
SWISS legally needs to provide refunds
While United Airlines is also playing games with refunds, the reality is that there are no government regulations requiring them to provide refunds under most circumstances. The same isn’t true in Europe, as SWISS is subjected to EC261.
This requires the airline to give customers the option of a full refund in the event that a flight is canceled.
While customers are legally entitled to that, as you can see based on the above, they’re doing everything in their power to avoid it — they are “currently” unable to process any refunds, and make no mention of the option on their cancelation and rebooking page. Yet they acknowledge it on Twitter, just noting it’s not the “focus.”
Hello, passengers are still entitled to their refund. However, please be aware that our focus is currently on handling urgent requests (i.e. rebooking & cancellations). Regards, Jertie
— Swiss Intl Air Lines (@FlySWISS) March 21, 2020
Obviously airlines are in a tough spot, and I totally get that. But many consumers are also in a tough spot, with airlines unwilling to refund them. Those on canceled SWISS flights are legally entitled to a refund, even if the airline is trying to do just about everything in their power to act as if that’s not an option.
(Tip of the hat to @montezume)