Six months after the start of containment on March 17, which led to millions of flight cancellations in France, the reimbursement of tickets is still pending for thousands of travelers.
“Between March 15 and August 15, we received 1,680 flight cancellation files due to Covid-19 and only 6% were resolved,” says Elphège Tignel, from the European Consumer Center for France.
Even if some consumers do not contact us when they get their refund, this figure is extremely low ”.
The same goes for Fnaut, the National Federation of Transport User Associations.
"We have many files dating back to the start of confinement, in March, April and May," notes Anne-Sophie Trcera, lawyer at Fnaut.
Some travelers cannot even join the company.
We have so many requests that we no longer take files.
According to estimates by the company vol-retarde.fr, a company specializing in the recovery of compensation for passengers in the event of a delayed flight, approximately 177 million travelers worldwide are still waiting for their tickets to be reimbursed.
“Between June and August, 23,942 passengers around the world, including 11,290 in France, called on us,” explains Charlotte Langle, site's marketing and communications manager.
Low-cost companies, among the bad students
If the repayment delays exasperate passengers, some of whom have very modest finances, they do not surprise Alain Battisti, the president of the National Federation of Merchant Aviation (Fnam): “In normal times, these are millions of tickets. aircraft that are sold each month in France.
When everything stops overnight, it is not surprising that the mass of cases still to be resolved remains significant ”.
Especially since not all airlines have adapted their commercial services to this tsunami of reimbursement requests.
If Air France claims to have multiplied by ten the number of staff in charge of these cases, from 70 to 700 people, Alain Battisti admits: "Other companies have remained with their base teams, or even cut off for some due to of staff placed on partial unemployment.
And given the context, it is complicated to hire ”.
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In the game of good and bad students, two major trends are emerging: "We especially have difficulties with low-cost companies and those from outside Europe, particularly in the Maghreb," notes Charlotte Langle.
They play on the fact that their headquarters are located outside Europe, in Tunisia and Morocco, to apply other reimbursement rules ”.
On the Air France side, since January, that is to say before the arrival of the Covid-19 in France, 1.1 billion euros in tickets has been reimbursed.
That is a total of two million requests processed.
As for the number of cases still pending, Air France was unable to respond.
"I do not want to give names, but companies that reimburse in small amounts take the risk of breaking the confidence of travelers, warns this CEO of a company.
It's a short-term strategy.
It is better to bring confidence and flexibility to our customers to bring them back ”.
A refund rather than a credit
Faced with the delays, the Fnaut sent a letter on July 13 to Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, Minister Delegate in charge of Transport.
In particular so that it forces companies to comply with European regulations, which require them to offer their customers reimbursements in hard currency, and not assets.
"He acknowledged receipt of our letter last week without responding to it on the merits," regrets Anne-Sophie Trcera.
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In any case, from September 15, the derogatory regime, decided by the order of March 25, which allowed French travel agencies to offer their customers a credit rather than a refund ends.
"This will allow consumers to see a little more clearly," says a specialist in the sector.
Many cases that are slow to be settled concern flights that have been purchased through intermediaries ”.
Canceled plane tickets: "I don't understand why my flight was canceled"
So what if you can't get your money back?
"Without a response from the company after two months, go to the tourism and travel mediator," advises Fnaut.
“It can work, but it may take time, squeals a specialist in the sector.
In most cases, you have to be patient.
Or if not, appeal to a consumer association… if it can take your file ”.
"That at least we are left with the choice"
Recourse already attempted by Yvette, who today feels "in a dead end".
She is fighting for a refund, not a credit, after her vacation in Croatia is canceled.
Because many customers of tour operators are also waiting to get their money back.
“I booked on Lastminute in December 2019 and I should have left in May, remembers this resident of the Rhône-Alpes region.
When the travel restrictions were posted I contacted them and they told me the trip was on hold.
Two weeks before departure, they canceled it.
They were unreachable.
At the beginning of July, Yvette receives a credit of 2000 euros.
“But in view of the deplorable customer service, I am asking them for a refund,” explains the 48-year-old Lyonnaise.
The problem with the French March ordinance is that it takes me to January 2022. Out of the question!
"To try to recover her money, Yvette spared no efforts: phone calls and countless emails sent to Lastminute, including her boss, file with the Fraud Repression as well as the UFC-Que consumer association choose, appeal to the Tourism mediator ...
"I even created an online dispute on the platform of the European Commission", completes the dynamic quadra.
"Those who want to use their assets, very well, but that at least we are left with the choice", protests Yvette.
A petition has also been posted on change.org.
Entitled "Cancellation by tour operators: unblocking our reimbursements for our stays already paid", it is addressed to the Secretary of State for Tourism, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.
Many travelers "have saved for a long time in order to be able to enjoy their stays with hope and certainly not to the bottom," notes the petition, which emphasizes the notion of confidence, necessary for economic recovery.
“Several airlines, understanding the urgency of restoring consumer confidence in the sector, are going back on their policy of refusing reimbursement,” notes its author.
It is not acceptable that tour operators continue, even after the action of the European Commission, to feel above the law and to abuse customers.
"" The assets, which represent 750 million euros, are in violation, according to the European Commission, recalls Raphaël Bartlomé, of the association UFC-Que Choisir.
We should have let people choose and not impose having it.