What can and cannot be claimed after cancellations due to Covid-19

The lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic has broken the plans of millions of consumers who, either out of obligation or precaution, will not be able to enjoy certain check this services before the outbreak of this crisis, or at least for the moment. 

The list of suspended activities is endless, school trips, academy classes, hotel nights, concerts, events, shows, etc. Therefore, consumers are asking whether they have the right to change the reservations or if not, to get their money back. Experts advice that the consumer does not have all with him, since the law does not cover some of the most common situations that the pandemic has caused. The success of the claims will depend on the circumstances in each case and the small print of the contract. 

As for the shows, the organizing companies are trying to postpone them in order to reduce the economic impact, however, as Esperanza Palacio, lawyer of Reclamador.es has said “if the consumer does not like the new date, of course he will have the right to claim the amount of the paid ticket”. Although, Gerardo Ruiz, Lagalitas’ lawyer, added that “events that lose their reason for being cannot be delayed”. Such as, for example, a balcony to see the Easter in Seville or a concert for the Fallas in Valencia. In these cases, he declares, companies will have no choice but to give the money back. 

In the case of gyms, school canteens and academies, when the Royal Ordinance was issued many users that had already paid the monthly fee or even entire quarters and courses. Esperanza Palacio emphasizes that law does not currently provide a solution for temporary or successive contracts that have been cancelled for reasons beyond the company, such as coronavirus and restrictions approved by the authorities to prevent its spread. Therefore, he believes that the most advisable thing to do for consumers is to “contact with companies to claim their proportional share of the quota or, if it is necessary, to evaluate other options”. For Gerardo Ruiz “the most logical thing would be for the service provider to return the money to the user, otherwise, for both parties will reach an agreement”. 

Another question arises with the return of purchases, for example, users who have bought a product in a physical store that gave the option to change it within 30 days and due to the current crisis now cannot check. On Tuesday 17 March, the Government put all deadlines for return on hold to avoid unnecessary movements. Therefore, the customer will be able to change the item without any problem when the state of alarm ends. 

On the other hand, there are train and bus tickets, Renfe has launched a service to change or cancel tickets without any cost for passengers who had planned trips in the dates after the declaration of state of alarm. The same happens with bus lines, if the trip has been cancelled, the amount of the ticket must be returned, however, if the passenger wishes not to travel to a risk zone or modify his reservation as a precaution, he must contact with the transport company and check if they are giving facilities to change the date of the ticket or directly cancel it. In other words, there is no rule requiring automatic refunds in these cases, however justified they may be, everything will depend on each company’s cancellation policy. 

In terms of international flights are concerned, although Spanish airspace remains open and the different airports have not stopped operating, there are already more than 110 countries that have banned Spanish travellers from entering their country or require them to be quarantined once they cross their borders. Many companies have chosen to cancel or reduce their connections to Spain, as established by European legislation. Passengers affected by the cancellation of a flight will be able to choose between a refund of the ticket or travel on another date. However, they will not be able to demand any kind of compensation. But what happen if it is the passenger who wants to cancel the trip because he is sick, or simply because he does not want to take any risks? Once again, we are faced with a loophole that could cost the consumer more than a few dollars. In fact, according to Esperanza Palacio, the traveller who decides not to travel on the Covid-19 will lose his money unless he has taken out a comprehensive insurance policy and the doctor has granted him sick leave. 

The airlines that allow you to change your ticket are the following

  • Iberia: It makes fares on flights operated by Iberia, Iberia Express and Iberia Regional Air Nostrum more flexible. They also offer the possibility of requesting a voucher for the same prince of the ticket which they must fill out a form. 
  • Air Europa: It allows change on affected routes. You can change the date without penalty until November 30th or ask for a voucher to be used before the end of the year.  
  • Binter: It makes it easy for all passengers on its flights to change their travel dates free of charge, regardless of the kind of fare purchased previously. According to a statement, those passengers who have purchased tickets to travel with Binter from 12 to 31 March, on inter-island routes in the Canary Islands or that have as their origin or destination this archipelago, may make a free change of your flight to a new date, regardless of the kind of fare of your ticket, to fly until the end of the year. 
  • Plus Ultra Líneas Aéreas: Allows its passengers to change their itinerary without any cost. The company has relaxed its penalty policies for changes in itinerary, allowing its passengers to change their flight dates without penalty payment. The measure applies to all the airline’s routes and is valid for passengers with tickets issued by Plus Ultra Líneas Aéreas until 31 March.  
  • British Airways: The British company has decided to eliminate the additional costs of changing tickets. 
  • Lufthansa: On their website they inform about the possibility to change the dates of the ticket for free because of the covid-19. 
  • AirFrance and KLM: Any ticket purchased before 31 March 2020, for traveling between 6 March and 31 May 2020, regardless of the original conditions of the ticket and your destination, may be changed without charge up to and including 31 May 2020, to the same destination and in the same booking class. 
  • Emirates Airline: The Dubai airline is introducing a waiver for all tickets issued from 7 March to 31 March. As with Air France and KLM, the new policy allows customers to change their travel dates without any charge or reissue fees. 
  • EasyjetIt will not charge for changes with some conditions. 

On the other hand, Ryanair will be the only one that will not allow the change of flight without costs, while Vueling and Cathay Pacific will allow the change of date only for new reservations. 

Government has also agreed to close all hotels and tourist accommodations, this decision of the Executive is supported by a health emergency situation, customers may get back their reservations from that date until the end of the state of alarm. When it is the client who decides not to stay in an establishment outside Spain and does not have full cancellation insurance, the situation becomes complicated. In the opinion of some jurists, the interested party could plead causes of “force majeure” since a pandemic has been declared on an international scale. Esperanza Palacio insists that “it is advisable to talk to those who have contracted the accommodation to try to make the changes or, if it is necessary, appropriate cancellations”.  

Sources: El País, Cadena Ser

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