In view of the accumulation of complaints about airlines, consumer advocates continue to insist on a reform of advance payment for air travel. So far, it has been customary for customers to pay for their tickets in full when booking, often months in advance. "The unfair advance payment practice for flight tickets must be changed," said the mobility expert of the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (vzbv), Marion Jungbluth, the "Handelsblatt". "So that the passenger does not have to bear the risk of airline insolvency due to the advance payment, a maximum of a deposit when booking the flight is justified for the mutual balancing of interests," emphasized the expert.
An alliance of consumer advocates and state politicians has been wanting to abolish this prepayment for a long time. The state of Lower Saxony had submitted a corresponding application to the Bundesrat. Flight cancellations were almost always at the expense of the passengers. In the event of a cancellation, they would have to work hard and sometimes tediously to get a refund, the state government argued. The background to this was the many flight cancellations in summer due to staff shortages.
Industry association pleads for planning security
The industry refuses to move away from prepayment. The industry association BDL argues, among other things, that with the money raised in advance, the airlines achieve greater planning security and can use the machines optimally, which is also positive for the climate. Reference is also made to standard international billing procedures. Customers could also benefit from early bird discounts.
vzbv expert Jungbluth had criticized in the past that "passengers are tired of giving the airlines interest-free loans, having to bear the costs of canceled flights or, in the worst case, having to bear the risk of insolvency". In the future, payment should only be made at check-in. In the "Handelsblatt" she now also demands protection for prepaid customer money in the event that an airline should slide into insolvency: "The federal government must make adjustments here and oblige airlines to take out insolvency insurance in favor of prepaid customer money," she said.
The traffic policy spokesman for the Greens parliamentary group, Stefan Gelbhaar, told the "Handelsblatt" that the prepayment principle plays a certain role in the planning of flights. "It is more effective to significantly improve the compensation rules for passengers." In the future, compensation for air travelers must be digital, automated and unbureaucratic in order to have a real impact. "The amount of compensation must also be checked and adjusted," said Gelbhaar.
The Federal Court of Justice last declared the previous system legal in 2016. The judges referred to the EU passenger regulation, which protects consumers adequately. Possible interest rate disadvantages for customers are regularly offset by price advantages for early bookings.