Coronavirus and air travel: this is what you should know!

What are your rights if your flight is cancelled because of the coronavirus? Can an airline refuse you if you do not wear a face mask? What should you pay attention to when accepting an airline voucher? What can you do if the airline refuses to refund your money? On this page, you can read everything you need to know about flying in times of corona.

How we can help you

The European Consumer Centre informs you about your consumer rights in the EU, provides free legal advice in cross-border disputes, and mediates if you and the airline or travel operator cannot work it out together. Our website offers information, tips and sample letters that will help you take the right steps.

Coronavirus and air travel: this is what you should know! ECC Netherlands

Good to know

Do I need a health certificate to fly?

Passengers (13 years and older) who are flying from or to the Netherlands must complete and carry a health certificate. Download the health statement of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and fill it in at home before your departure. You must be able to show this form if asked to do so at Schiphol Airport, on the plane or at the airport of your travel destination.

#health-certificate

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What are the consequences for my return flight in the event of a new corona outbreak?

The consequences of a second outbreak of the coronavirus during your trip can be huge. A country can proclaim new measures and close its borders. Entry and exit traffic will then be limited or no longer possible. The airline may cancel your return flight. 

Stranded abroad

When a flight is cancelled, you are in principle entitled to a rebooking. If the borders and airspace are closed, it is usually an impossible mission for an airline to comply with the obligation to rebook your flight. They will simply not be permitted to land or take off. You risk being stranded abroad. 

Assistance from the government

In the event of a new outbreak of the coronavirus, the Dutch government will not return (repatriate) stranded travellers. You are aware of the possible risks and are therefore also personally responsible for a safe return to the Netherlands. 
 

#consequences-return-flight-new-outbreak-coronavirus

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Can an airline refuse me if I do not wear a face mask?

You are required to wear a face mask when boarding and on board the aircraft. The airline may deny you access to the aircraft if you refuse to wear a face mask.

#face-mask

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What am I entitled to when the airline cancels my flight?

When a flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a rebooking or a refund of the ticket price. If flights are again cancelled in large numbers in the event of a new corona outbreak, it may take a while before you get your money back. The airline may also offer you a voucher. You do not have to accept this.

Right to financial compensation in the event of flight cancellation
If the airline has informed you of the flight cancellation less than 14 days before the scheduled time of departure, you are entitled to financial compensation. This compensation can run up to € 600. This does not apply to situations of force majeure.

Flight cancellation due to the coronavirus
According to European regulations, an airline cannot always be held responsible for a flight cancellation. In situations of force majeure, such as the coronavirus, severe weather conditions, an unannounced air traffic control strike or terrorism, you are not entitled to financial compensation.

What does financial compensation mean?
A financial compensation is a supplementary compensation that you receive for the inconvenience you experience, the loss of time, in the case of a long delay or cancelled flight. This compensation can be up to € 600 per passenger.

#compensatie-vluchtannulering-corona

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I can't fly because of health issues. Can I get a refund?

When you have sympoms of the coronavirus, you may not board the aircraft. Whether you are entitled to a rebooking, refund or voucher depends on the airline its booking conditions. A number of airlines have temporarily relaxed their terms due to the coronavirus. You can also check whether your travel insurance covers the costs of canceling your flight.

#refund-when-having-health-issues

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Can I rebook my flight free of charge or cancel it in the case of a negative travel advice?

As long as the airline is able to operate your flight, you will in principle not be able to rebook or cancel this flight free of charge. You are subject to the booking conditions and willingness of the airline to rebook or cancel the flight free of charge. 

Re-booking or cancellation in the event of negative travel advice
Has a negative travel advice (code orange or red) been issued for your travel destination and has the airline not cancelled your flight? Please contact the airline and inquire about the possibilities for rebooking the flight (free of charge). 

Cancellation insurance
Insurers no longer see the cancellation of a flight due to the coronavirus as a sudden event. Recovering money through your cancellation insurance has been excluded with most insurers. 

#negative-travel-advice-free-rebooking-cancellation

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Do I have to accept a voucher if a flight is cancelled?

In the event of a flight cancellation due to the coronavirus, an airline may offer you a flight voucher. This is an alternative to rebooking the flight or refunding your money. You have the right to refuse this voucher. If this offer is refused, the airline will have to refund you the ticket price. The voucher should not be forced on you. 

#corona-flight-voucher

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What should I pay attention to when accepting a flight voucher?

If your flight is cancelled because of the coronavirus, the airline may offer you a flight voucher. Before you choose to accept this voucher, check if the voucher complies with the basic principles of the voucher scheme of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets ACM. 

  • Accepting a voucher is a choice, it should not be imposed on you. The starting point remains that you are entitled to a refund when you cancel your booking. 
  • The voucher must be a full replacement. This means that the voucher value is equal to the original travel sum including booking fees and administrative costs, etc. 
  • Vouchers must have a reasonable validity period, e.g. 12 months. 
  • The remaining voucher amount (the part you have not spent) must be paid out afterwards by the airline within a reasonable period of time. 
  • Have you made a down payment? Then you do not have to pay the remaining amount if you know that the holiday cannot go ahead or if the airline will be unable to perform the agreement.

Also check if the flight voucher is covered by a guarantee fund or if another guarantee scheme applies so you will not be left empty-handed in the event of bankruptcy.
 

#voucher-conditions

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I bought a ticket through booking website, flight has been canceled. Who should I address?

If you have booked a flight ticket through a booking website (intermediary) and you have a question or complaint, you can write to both the airline and the booking website.

Airline is responsible for refund
Are you entitled to a refund? For example, because your flight has been canceled by the airline due to the coronavirus, the operating airline is responsible for the refund. The money is usually returned to the same bank account with which the tickets were purchased.

No solution? This is what you can do! 
If you feel that you are being sent back and forth between the intermediary and airline and when nobody is offering you a solution, please contact ACM ConsuWijzer for legal advice. This is the information desk of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets.

Foreign airline or booking agency? Ask ECC for help!
Do you have a conflict with a foreign booking agency or airline, based in the EU, Norway, Iceland or the United Kingdom? Then ask the ECC for legal assistance. View here what we do. Our legal aid is free of charge. 

#ticket-booking-website

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What can I do if the airline refuses to refund my money?

If an airline refuses to refund your money in the event of a flight cancellation, you do not need to leave it at that. Let us explain what you can do!

Ask for a refund with our template letter
Does the airline unwillingly impose a voucher on you? Make it clear to the airline that this is not appreciated and that you don't accept it. Make your complaint known to the airline in writing, via the website or by email. Use the ECC sample letter ‘Flight cancelled due to the coronavirus? Get your money back!’ This letter can be downloaded in Dutch and English. Free of charge! Allow the airline to respond within 4 weeks. 

Report it to the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) 
Does the airline fail to respond within the time limit you set, or is your request for a refund rejected? Report it to the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate. This regulator can take strict action against airlines that do not comply with the rules and are taking unfair advantage of the corona crisis. 

Complaint about a foreign airline? Ask ECC for assistance!
Do you live in the Netherlands and do you have a conflict with a foreign airline established in another EU Member State, Norway, Iceland or the United Kingdom, which you cannot resolve together? Ask our legal specialists for assistance. We mediate between you and the airline. Free of charge! 

Small claims procedure
If you have a conflict with a foreign airline and the mediation of the ECC is unsuccessful, you can start a small claims procedure and bring your complaint to court. Our lawyers can inform you about the legal options and costs for starting this procedure.

Take it to court
In the Netherlands, you can enforce financial compensation through court. This is possible up to two years after the cancelled or delayed flight. The judge will assess your claim and will rule on it. You do not need to engage a lawyer for this.

#airline-refuses-refund

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The airline/booking office deducts unjustifiable costs, what now?

If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund of your ticket. Did you not book the ticket directly with the airline, but through a booking office? Again, no costs may be withheld, such as administrative costs or broker fees.

Does the airline or the booking office refuse to refund you the full amount? Or do you receive a voucher that does not cover the full value of the ticket price you paid? Then you do not need to leave it at that. Let us explain what you can do!  

Download sample letter
Make your complaint known to the airline in writing, via the website or by email. Use the ECC sample letter ‘wrongful deduction of costs from corona voucher’. This letter can be downloaded in Dutch and English. Free of charge! 

Report it to the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT)
Does the airline fail to respond within the time limit you set, or is your request for a refund rejected? Report it to the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate. This regulator can take strict action against airlines that do not comply with the rules and are taking unfair advantage of the corona crisis. 

Complaint about a foreign airline? Ask ECC for assistance!
Do you live in the Netherlands and do you have a conflict with a foreign airline or booking agent established in another EU Member State, Norway, Iceland or the United Kingdom, which you cannot resolve together? Ask our legal specialists for assistance. We mediate between you and the airline. Free of charge! 
 

#deduction-unjustifiable-costs-corona-voucher

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Do I get my money back if the airline goes bankrupt?

If your flight is not part of a composite trip (package holiday), but a separate booking, there is a good chance that you will be left empty-handed after the bankruptcy of an airline company. You are the last in line to get any money back. 

Flight voucher no guarantee in case of bankruptcy
An airline may offer a flight voucher when a flight is cancelled due to the coronavirus. Is the airline going bankrupt? Then the flight voucher probably loses its value and you will have lost your money. Therefore, check the voucher conditions before you accept a voucher
 

#bankruptcy-airline-refund?

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About the ECC

How can the European Consumer Centre help me?

The European Consumer Centre will help find a solution for your complaint if you and a foreign airline cannot work it out together. You live in the Netherlands and the airline must be established in another EU country, Norway, Iceland or the United Kingdom. Contact our legal specialists via the online form. Our legal aid is free. 

Question/complaint about a Dutch airline
If you have a question or complaint about a Dutch airline, please contact the Legal Services Counter, ACM Consuwijzer or the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate for legal assistance. 
 

#European-Consumer-Centre

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