KLM, don’t use customers as banks

Tens of thousands of flights have now been cancelled due to the corona virus and entry bans imposed by several countries. As a result, millions of pre-paid holidays and business trips have gone down the drain.

Many airlines are refunding customers their pre-paid money. Fortunately, because many people and companies are currently in uncertainty about their financial future or even money problems. Moreover, it is justified, as airlines are required by EU law to refund money from cancelled flights within seven days. Airlines are also allowed to offer a voucher instead of a refund. But only if a customer agrees.

“Airlines must refund cancelled air tickets,” EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean said last week. “They can of course offer a voucher, but only – and this is very important – if the customer agrees. If not, the company has to refund the ticket”.

Government support

Of course, the corona crisis is also a bummer for airlines. But almost all of them can rely on government support, raising money in the bond market or knocking on a bank’s door. This makes their position stronger than that of the many businesses in the hospitality industry, hairdressers or self-employed workers who are now without income and who could very well use the money they paid in advance for cancelled flights. It is therefore logical that many people want their money back.

In this crisis situation, you would expect KLM and the rich Dutch state, which co-owns KLM, to set a good example by obeying the law. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite KLM’s obligation to refund ticket costs within seven days, the company is flouting EU law.

KLM does this in two ways. First, without communicating about it, the company has stopped refunding people who have already submitted a request. On social media, people who submitted refund requests almost a month ago but have not received anything are reporting.

KLM, meanwhile, does not address individual cases and blames the failure to refund on busyness. Customers are referred to a form that can be used to request an update on the refund. But even then, further information or refunds remain outstanding.


In addition, and perhaps even more reprehensible, the company has made it impossible (!) to request refunds, by replacing the form that previously allowed this with a form that can only be used to request a voucher. The aim is to be able to keep customers’ money, without paying interest on it, in KLM’s bank account.

Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (Infrastructure, VVD) told the House of Representatives to “tolerate” KLM’s modus operandi. In doing so, KLM’s customers, without even receiving interest, have become KLM’s bank. Just when they might need the money themselves. That KLM does this and that the minister allows it is downright shocking. If you still want to abuse your customers as a bank, at least pay a decent interest rate.

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