In Germany, the debate about prepayment practice for airline tickets is gaining momentum. Consumer Protection Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) and Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) want to ask the industry to a round table.
The state government of Lower Saxony is in an even greater hurry because they want this topic to be dealt with in the Bundesrat. “In future, the ticket would only have to be paid for at check-in. In this way we want to significantly improve consumer protection for travellers," the Handelsblatt quoted State Transport Minister Bernd Althusmann (CDU).
A decision is to be made in the cabinet on Tuesday. This should lead to the Federal Council on September 16, 2022 for the first time advising on the prepayment practice for flight tickets. The round table planned by the federal government is also intended to prepare the industry for possible changes.
As late as the 1990s, many airlines still allowed tickets to be reserved by telephone or through agencies for collection before departure at the airport. Payment was then only made at the counter. This posed a certain risk for the airlines, because if the passenger did not show up, there was no money either. However, the seat could be reassigned and in the past the proportion of travelers who only bought their ticket immediately before departure at the airport was significantly higher.
The fact that the debate about the payment of air tickets has picked up speed is primarily due to the behavior of the providers. Although EU Regulation 261/2004 stipulates that cancellations must be repaid within seven days, many airlines do not comply with this. At the beginning of the corona pandemic, repayments were deliberately delayed and some airlines also tried to fob off their passengers with knowingly false information with compulsory vouchers.
Although the industry vowed to improve, many airlines are still not complying with the statutory reimbursement obligation in the summer of 2022. Some airlines also interpret the regulation so creatively that it is literally circumvented. With a possible abolition of the prepayment practice, German politicians want to turn the tables.