Faced with the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise the pandemic infection by coronavirus, many people are reflecting a little more before boarding a plane, bound for cities or countries where there is imminent health risk. With health authorities recommending that the population avoid exposure, consumer demand for cancellation or postponement of travel. But what seems to be a simple process, becomes complicated: neither side wants to bear the total loss of a withdrawal and the complaints of intransigence on the part of companies in the tourism sector accumulate.
The Federal Public Ministry (MPF) went so far as to recommend the National Civil Aviation Agency (Anac) to adopt a normative act that would ensure consumers the possibility of canceling, free of charge, national and international air tickets to destinations reached by Covid-19. For the MPF, the demand for fares and fines in situations such as the current one, of global emergency in health, abusive practice and prohibited by the Consumer Protection Code –– also understands that tickets purchased until March 9, departing from airports in Brazil , would be entitled to reimbursement or remarking, within up to 12 months.
The National Civil Aviation Agency (Anac), however, states that passengers are subject to the rules of the companies themselves, with a deadline of only seven days for the so-called “right to repentance”, considering that, so far, there is no indication for restrictions on international traffic, much less domestic. According to the Ministry of Health, they would only be recommendations to travelers, aiming to reduce the exposure to disease transmission. “However, it must be said that the consumer does not have a wide right of regret (withdrawal without reason or motivated by insufficient legal reasons, such as fear of exaggerated risks that may not exist)”, informs the technical note of the National Consumer Secretariat.
With a scheduled trip to Porto Alegre this week, retired Maria Ins Castro, 57, had to cancel the trip on medical advice to her husband. “He is asthmatic and hypertensive, and we didn't want to take the risk. His doctor advised us not to travel, ”he explained. According to her, the airline stated that it does not follow a reimbursement booklet due to the infection within the country. “Gol told us that it had no indication of cancellation, except for Italy, and that it had nothing for travel in Brazil. So, I had to cancel within the company's rules, with refunds of the shipping fee. We even thought about asking for a medical certificate from him, but we thought it best not to mess with it. ”
Although he did not go, Inez did not cancel the return ticket, which is scheduled for next Monday, and is still thinking about what to do. “If I have the right, I will claim. I know that in view of the situation today, it is not the main thing, but later on, when things calm down. The fair that my husband was going to attend for work was also canceled because of the coronavirus. So there would be no reason for us to go anyway. At Booking, where I booked the accommodation, they still didn't answer me, but at least they didn't refuse and said they were going to study the situation, ”he said.
It is not just the airlines that have to deal with the growing dropouts, but all the service providers on the trip. Booking, which operates in the accommodation reservation sector, said in a statement that it is offering free cancellation or modification of the reservation for people traveling to the most affected areas. Airbnb, a platform that allows people to offer and search for accommodation, announced the More Flexible Reservations program to deal with the emergency caused by the coronavirus outbreak. According to the company, a set of tools and programs was developed to help hosts and guests deal with uncertainties, in addition to meeting the needs of customers, on both sides, to cancel or postpone accommodation plans.
Student Luiz Fernando Braz, 22, was scheduled to travel to a festival in So Paulo on the first weekend of April, which was suspended due to the recommendations of health organizations. He was able to easily request a full refund for hosting on the app. “I asked for the cancellation by Airbnb and I will get the full amount back. Especially because, in their policy, cancellation without fees can be done up to 15 days before check-in, and was within that period. Now, with the tickets, I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't want to reschedule, I want my money back, but honestly, I don't have much hope ”, he lamented.
According to the professor of Consumer Law at Centro Universitrio Iesb, Igor Rodrigues, the Defense Code must attribute the risk of the activity to the service provider, as it has an economic advantage and considering external situations that are not part of the will of those who hired the company. trip. “It is a difficult time for companies in the sector and it can generate a temporary crisis, but it is undeniable that it is not the consumer who must assume this loss. Companies need to be prepared and be solitary, not allowing people to submit themselves to this risk and not spreading the disease even further ”, he charged.
Although he advocates full compensation, he recognizes that there are difficulties due to the lack of determination of national restriction. There is a large structure of Consumer Protection bodies prepared to receive these complaints. In several states, the MP recommended to large tourism, cruise and transport companies that serve consumers in what they ask for, either in postponing the credit to make the trip at another time or returning the amount paid.
* Internship under the supervision of Fabio Grecchi
How to seek your rights
In the event that consumers and companies do not reach an agreement, even after complaints with Procon or the platform www.consumidor.gov.br, the alternative in these cases is to judicialize the complaint in an attempt to obtain reimbursement.
What operators say
»GOL – On international flights scheduled until April 12, the company offers the cancellation of the trip and keeps the amount in credit for future flights. In the case of a rebooking, it can be done for any period within a year, and the remarking fee will not be charged – only the difference between the rates, if any. Whoever chooses the refund, there will be no cancellation fee. However, the refund fee may be charged, depending on the rule of the purchased ticket.
” BLUE – The company is offering options for rescheduling flights to or from Lisbon or Porto, South America and the United States. The measure applies to customers with tickets purchased for flights in March. The options are to change the trip – at no additional cost, being able to postpone the flight until June 30, 2020 – and to cancel the trip, leaving the amount as credit for other flights with Azul, without the application of fees for this cancellation .
»LATAM – On all international flights, with new reservations made between March 6 and 22, 2020, the date and / or destination can be rebooked without penalty, but subject to tariff differences. Change once allowed, valid for travel until December 31, 2020, and change can be booked up to 14 days before departure of the original flight. Suspended flights to Italy can be rescheduled or refunded, free of charge. In the case of Israel, the remarking is also subject to tariff differences. In other destinations, cases will be assessed on time.
»TAP – The company increased its flexibility to change travel dates and destinations, and guarantees to guarantee the possibility of rescheduling the flight, without paying the associated change fee, on tickets issued between 08 and 31 March 2020 –– from according to a group statement. The free change must be requested 21 days in advance of the date of the first flight.
»AMERICAN AIRLINES – It has different conditions for passengers with flights departing, arriving or connecting in South Korea, Hong Kong, China and Italy. For each country, a rule. For more information, look for the company.
»DELTA – It has special rebooking or flight cancellation policies for passengers traveling to Shanghai and Beijing, China, in addition to Seoul, South Korea, and Italy (all destinations operated in the European country) until April 30. Tickets can be rescheduled free of charge for other dates until the end of May.
»UNITED AIRLINES – He canceled his flights to China and Hong Kong. Whoever has scheduled flight to Wuhan, the refund is being made free of charge, as long as the ticket was purchased until January 21st this year. For other destinations in China, there is a rescheduling option for a later date. There are also remarking policies for South Korea and northern Italy.
- * As recommended by the Ministry of Health, all tourist cruises must be postponed during the public health emergency period.
»COSTA CRUZEIROS – It is offering free cancellation and no penalty for new and individual bookings made from March 9 to April 30. The cancellation is valid for international trips, with departures from May 1st, and for all itineraries planned for the 2021 season around the world, including those through South America and the crossings between Brazil and Italy by Costa Fascinosa, Costa Luminosa and Costa Pacifica.
»ROYAL CARIBBEAN – Allows guests to cancel any cruise departing by July 31, up to 48 business hours prior to departure. The customer receives a letter of credit in the amount of the fine provided for in the contract, which can be used on any cruise departing in 2020 or 2021. The measure is valid until December 31, 2021 for all ports where boarding takes place.
»MSC CRUZEIROS – It made pre-shipment screening more rigorous, including banning access to ships for those who traveled anywhere in Italy in the past 14 days. The rule also covers those who have passed through airports in these regions. Customers with reservations on canceled cruises in Italy will receive a voucher for the value of their current cruise, which can be redeemed on any future voyages during 2020 and 2021.
»UNIWORLD RIVER CRUISES AND U-RIVER – Clients with travel scheduled from May 1st will have the option of cancellation, up to 30 days before the departure date. The companies said they will retain only $ 200 per person, an amount that can be used on a next trip, up to five years.
»NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE – It offers 100% credit to those who cancel the cruise (until September 30th) only 48 hours in advance. This is: if you give up traveling because you're still scared of Covid-19, you can use the credit on any other cruise of the company until December 31, 2022.
»BOOKING – It is offering free cancellation or modification of the reservation for people traveling to the most affected areas. “We are closely monitoring events, including announcements from the World Health Organization (WHO), governments and relevant local authorities, in order to support the affected parties,” they said in a note.
»AIRBNB – The platform included Italy in the “Policy for Causes of Greater Force”. Consumers with accommodation in Europe, mainland China and South Korea can request cancellation or refund of the service free of charge, respecting the reservation dates determined by the company for each location. There is also the program “Most Flexible Reservations”, a set of tools developed to facilitate the cancellation of accommodation in view of health recommendations. Guests will also have access to search filters that show the most appropriate cancellation policy with the profile of each traveler (flexible, moderate or severe), and the current outlook for the coronavirus. In addition, hosts will have access to new tools to authorize extra refunds directly on the platform.
»BUSER – The collaborative bus charter platform ensures that the elderly and people with chronic diseases are fully reimbursed. When canceling trips for security reasons, it guarantees to users advance notice and full refund of money. Confirmed trips are being monitored, with guidance for companies operating by Buser to reinforce vehicle cleanliness.