What is a flight voucher? Should you accept it?

2020-09-09

Flight vouchers are the aviation industry’s response to flights cancelled by the Coronavirus crisis and the subsequent claims for refunds. Don’t be fooled! Ticket refunds are a right, claim yours now!

Only a few months ago requesting a refund for a cancelled flight was not a problem and most refund requests were processed in a professional and prompt manner. With the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic airlines found themselves in the unprecedented state of having to cancel hundreds of thousands of flights and ground fleets for an unknown and indeterminant period of time.

What is a flight voucher?

To try and cope with the millions of passengers with cancelled flights and potential billions of Euro in refundable tickets, airlines opted for other options that would allow them to operate without having to refund cash. In general airlines opted for a mix of three major options:

  1. Free of charge flight date change option
  2. Vouchers as flight compensation
  3. Automatic airline credit

Some groups of travellers, such as frequent flyers, were happy to opt for the free of charge date change option, however in the vast amount of cases airlines offered vouchers as compensation for cancelled flights. These unsolicited vouchers were intended to work as a type of credit system which could be used for a set period, generally 12 months from issue, but often extendable to 24 months, for any flights and services of the airline.

In most cases, as future flights were cancelled in advance this proved very unsatisfactory for customers as they had something that now only had a notional value, that is to say that they could be used to rebook new flights at an, as yet unknown, future date.

Some airlines such as WizzAir offered inhouse credit at a rate of 120% of the cancelled ticket value. For some this proved to be a satisfactory alternative, especially for frequent travellers and less rigid travellers, where travel dates and even destination are less of an issue.

What to do if an airline offers you travel vouchers

All over the world hundreds of thousands, if not millions of passengers were left with airline vouchers that they did not want. If you are one of those customers you have many options open to you.
All ticket holders are entitled to a full refund for COVID-19 cancelled flights. If you are offered a flight voucher that you do not wish to accept, you are under no obligation to take it. You can request a refund from the airline instead.

Legally airlines are obliged to refund all legitimate ticket refund claims within a period of 7 days. However, please do be aware that currently airlines are taking much longer to respond to customers and process refunds. Some airlines even state that refund requests, once accepted, will take at least 6 months to process! However, instead of waiting so long the help of a professional service such as GIVT’s can be sought as a means of expediting claims.

Many airlines work on the premise that most customers will accept what is offered and the bulk of customers will accept a flight voucher instead of a refund. This is not the case and under no circumstances can airlines force customers to accept unwanted travel vouchers.

All passengers are entitled to a full ticket refund for cancelled flights due to Coronavirus. Many airlines, however, try to obligate customers into either rebooking their flights for another date, or accepting a travel voucher, or airline account credit in lieu of a cash refund. If your airline does not offer a refund option, this is no way means that refunds are not a possibility, on the contrary, it is your right as confirmed by the European Commission on May 13th.

How do I use my flight voucher?

The exact details on how to use airline vouchers will differ from airline to airline, however in most cases it will involve logging in to an airline registered account online or entering the voucher number at the start or end of the booking process. Book flights and additional services can be done as normal.
If after such a booking credit still remains then either a new voucher will be issue to the value of the remaining credit, or the existing voucher will be revalued at the remaining credit value.

Can I sell or swap my voucher?

Some airlines allow vouchers to be transferrable, that is to say that the original payee or passengers need not necessarily be one of the new passengers booked with the voucher. In this case then vouchers can indeed be sold or swapped, as with any other item of a similar value.

Note: Please check the exact details of voucher transferability with your airline first.

Why should I not accept a voucher in lieu of a refund for my cancelled flights?

Vouchers have an expiry date, while airlines promise that unused vouchers or remaining voucher credit can be redeemed at the end of expiry period, this assumes many things, especially that the airline will still be operating at the end of the expiry term. Once an airline files for dissolution obtaining a refund is a very difficult business.

Running an airline is a very volatile business and the huge costs involved make for much unpredictability. In 2019 alone 23 airlines went bust including the world’s oldest package operator Thomas Cook.

For example, LOT – Polish Airlines, Poland’s largest airline is in the process of voluntary controlled bankruptcy. Whether LOT 2, as it is being called, will honour expired vouchers is anyone’s guess.

Vouchers predominantly are not interchangeable and can only be used with one airline. This can limit passengers if another airline has special offers of interest and all their money is tied up with a different airline.

Some airlines offer extra benefits with their vouchers, for example a percentage bonus as with KLM or SAS. In these cases it may be mutually beneficial for travellers to opt to accept vouchers. This can be particularly true in situations when only one airline offers services to or from a particular airport.

Whether you wish to fly again soon, or not, it always feels good to know where your money is. Obtaining a refund is for a cancelled flight is your right and if you are in doubt the experts at GIVT will be happy to help.

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