The Association of Passenger Rights Defenders (APRA) will refuse all requests for financial compensation made by passengers to airlines. In the understanding of APRA, the Covid-19 pandemic should be considered an “extraordinary circumstance” outside the air carriers and, therefore, they do not have a duty to reimburse passengers, for example, in cases of cancellations. The association is made up of flight compensation companies from all over the world – such as AirHelp – that provide support to passengers in disputes with airlines or airports.
“All APRA members will adopt the collective view that flight disruptions caused directly by Covid-19 should be considered extraordinary circumstances. This reflects the fact that the situation of Covid-19 is beyond the control of airlines, ”writes APRA, in a statement. According to the association's president, Adeline Noorderhaven, APRA members "have already proactively started refusing requests for compensation for passengers with problems with flights related to Covid-19".
Still, it should be noted that airlines have their own policy – and they can provide for a refund or rescheduling at no cost. For example, TAP has already announced that it will allow customers with trips booked until May 31 to change dates and destinations until December 31, without paying fees. The measure applies to flights booked before March 8, but rescheduling is only free if done 21 days before the initial flight.
“Air passengers are a very vulnerable group of consumers. It is our mission to defend them whenever their rights are not respected. However, we consider it important to be realistic and reasonable. Legal clarity and security are of the utmost importance in the current situation. In our view, the current Covid-19 crisis has gone beyond the control of its airlines and should be classified as extraordinary, ”says Adeline Noorderhaven.
According to APRA, this "crisis" can accelerate a "competition battle" in the aviation industry, which can bring losses to smaller companies. What consequence does this have for the consumer? "A significant reduction in consumer choice, higher prices and an oligopoly situation (few companies competing for the same market), leaving passengers even more vulnerable".
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