Airline bankruptcy: how to get a refund?

When an airline own more debt than liquidity, it usually ceases opertions and declares bankrupt. What are the consequences for air passengers? Do they have any resorts to request refund of their tickets?

What to do in case of an airline bankruptcy?

You have not the same rights if you have booked a flight on its own or as part of a package (FR).

The cancelled flight was booked with the airline or an intermediary

If you had booked a flight on its own with the European airline that has gone to bankruptcy or with an intermediary (travel agency, platform of online booking), victim air passengers have few solutions:

  • As soon as possible stop payment at your bank if the amount has not yet been debited (L. 133-24 the Monetary and Financial Code);
  • Request the reimbursement from your bank via the chargeback procedure (FR)
  • Declare his or her claim to the appointed liquidator. In most cases, the liquidator is to be contacted by mail in the language of the country, where the procedure are opened and you must prove your damage (tickets copy, invoices…). But the liquidation process often proves to be complex, long, and the chance of getting a refund of the tickets are slim. Assets are used initially to pay the priority creditors (State, tax authorities, employees, suppliers…). Passengers usually come at the end, when there are no more assets available.

The cancelled flight was included in the package trip (flight + hotel)

If you had booked a package trip (FR) and that the airline that was supposed to provide the outward or return flight goes bankrupt you are better protected. The agency or tour-operator are responsible of the services achievement. If the bankruptcy occurs before the journey: they must propose the flight refund or an alternative flight. When the bankruptcy occurs during the journey: they must re-route the travelers and assume extra costs of this rerouting.

Travel booked with a French company

Your French agency is your one and only representative and remains responsible of the services achievement. It must book another flight for you or find you an alternative transport in case of cancelled flight because of bankruptcy of the airline.

In case of bankruptcy of a European airline, the ECC France can no longer deal with consumer requests, because no amiable settlement can be envisaged.

Which airlines went bankrupt in 2019 and 2020?

  • Flybe - March 2020
  • Ernest Airlines - January 2020
  • Adria Airways - September 2019
  • Thomas Cook Airlines - September 2019
  • XL Airways - September 2019
  • Aigle Azur - September 2019
  • Wow Air - March 2019
  • Germania - February 2019

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.