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Sometime back I had asked about airlines which refunded money if visa is refused.

Now in last few months, from whatever little I have understood, European carriers have a much higher standard of care-giving, compensation overall character vis-a-vis their American counterparts and airline carriers around the world, including India.

But what was astonishing is that only two airlines were mentioned who give refunds which were from Europe, KLM and Air France whereas there are more than two dozen airlines operating out of European Union. I kept out the cargo ones and the ones which had British in the name as Britain is no longer part of the EU and hence perhaps doesn't share the same policies when counting the number of airlines operating out of EU .

Also been reading lot of bad press about BA recently.

Now if my very limited reading of European passenger airlines is right, the law for all airlines is/would be the same . Which means all Airlines operating in and around Europe would need to refund fares in case Schengen Visa is refused.

Am I understanding it wrong ?

I looked at EU Regulation 261/2004 and it seems to say something -

Passengers denied boarding against their will should be able either to cancel their flights, with reimbursement of their tickets, or to continue them under satisfactory conditions, and should be adequately cared for while awaiting a later flight

and is followed by an interesting comment on page 3 -

(j) ‘denied boarding’ means a refusal to carry passengers on a flight, although they have presented themselves for boarding under the conditions laid down in Article 3(2), except where there are reasonable grounds to deny them boarding, such as reasons of health, safety or security, or inadequate travel documentation;

What is being meant by "inadequate travel documentation" here, are they talking about visa bit or something else ?

If there is EU document which explicitly talks about visa-refusal situations and airlines responsibilities towards passengers would be nice.

I am planning to visit few European countries, do the touristy things, want to buy tickets as proof of onward travel which should make it easier to get the visa, but not at the expense of losing money.

If all European airlines compensate in case of visa-refusal then I could use them only to find which offers the most competitive fares and book them without worrying about what happens about visas

Update - List of countries considering to travel -

a. Luxembourg
b. Netherlands c. The Czech Republic d. Belgium e. Liechtenstein. (Maybe)

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    The UK is part of the EU, and, unless the negotiations go amazingly rapidly, will remain a member for at least another two years. However, you may be more concerned about the Schengen area, which the UK has never joined. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 7 '16 at 21:10
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    Lack of the proper visa is most certainly "inadequate travel documentation". – brhans Dec 7 '16 at 21:50
  • @brahns - while lack of meaningful sustenance is grounds for visa refusal, having no proof of travel/itineary is another. While you could argue about booking hostels/hotels etc. that doesn't hold true for short stays and therein lies the cocondrum. – shirish Dec 7 '16 at 22:01
  • @brhans But sometimes you have the correct visa (or do not need one) and are refused entry at the destination anyway. – Andrew Lazarus Dec 7 '16 at 22:10
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    @shirish all airlines offer fully refundable fare classes - I think the gist of your question however is rather "does the EU have any regulations which require an airline to refund a ticket regardless of the fare class when a visa related to the purchase is denied" and the answer to that is no. – Moo Dec 7 '16 at 22:55
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None of the airlines irrespective where they are based will refund a ticket if the visa was declined. Visa/ entry permit is the responsibility of the passenger! You can buy a higher fare, fully refundable ticket while applying for a visa, once your visa is issued, cancel those & get the cheaper options. :)

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The gist of your question is "does the EU have any regulations which require an airline to refund a fare regardless of the fare class in the event that any visa application related to that fare purchase is denied" and the answer to that is no.

Some EU airlines voluntarily refund non-refundable fares in the event of a visa denial, but many do not have a publicly stated policy on it, so the correct thing to do is to purchase a fare in a refundable fare class to be sure of a refund in the event of a potential visa denial.

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Does the EU have rules about air ticket refunds in case of visa refusal?

EU Regulations

The rules you quoted are:

Passengers denied boarding against their will should be able either to cancel their flights, with reimbursement of their tickets,

...

(j) ‘denied boarding’ means a refusal to carry passengers ... except where there are ... inadequate travel documentation;

I certainly would interpret lacking a valid visa as "inadequate travel documentation"

To me, this means that you have no legal entitlement, under this law, to a refund - if you turn up at the airport without a valid visa where one is required by your destination.

This means you have to look at the airline-specific terms and conditions, they might be more generous than legally required.

I am not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice.

Airline rules

AF and KLM are part of the same group but you can find slightly different documents at each airline's website (though both documents state they apply to both airlines)

Air France rules appear to follow the standard EU rules:

You are not entitled to compensation if you were refused boarding for reasons related to health, security or inadequate travel documentation.

KLM rules seem to give somewhat mixed advice:

  1. DENIED BOARDING CONDITIONS
    In the event of an overbooked flight ...
    You are not entitled to this if there are reasonable grounds to deny boarding, such as reasons of health, safety, security or inadequate travel documentation.

3.2 DENIED BOARDING COMPENSATION
This compensation scheme is based on EU Regulation 261/2004.

If in doubt, I would ask the airline to clarify before purchase.


Related Questions

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    I think KLM is just saying that they will pay the standard compensation in the event of involuntarily denied boarding (e.g. you've been bumped due to overbooking), but they won't do so if there's a good reason for them to refuse you boarding anyway. Not having a visa when one is required would be one such good reason. – Zach Lipton Dec 8 '16 at 0:59
  • And note that under "denied boarding" regulation one is entitled not just to refund, but also to extra compensation on top of refund. However this is clearly the case of "inadequate travel documentation", so no such compensation. – George Y. Dec 8 '16 at 4:47
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    KLM has refunded me fully non-refundable sale price ticket after asking for official visa refusal letter, no deductions no questions. – DavChana Dec 8 '16 at 6:35
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The simple answer is NO, there are no rules forcing a refund in your situation.

The regulations you quote are for denied boarding, which means you have to go to the airport on the day of the flight, try to check in, actually get denied by the airline staff, then look into getting a refund or use your ticket for a future trip after you have your visa.

But if there is any notation in your passport that your visa was denied or if the case goes to court and the airline discovers your visa denial, it could be argued that you knew you were ineligible to travel and therefore the boarding denial is not "involuntary", but simply an attempt to defraud the airline out of a non-refundable airfare.

Calling the airline ahead of departure and trying to change or cancel your ticket, will be considered as a voluntary cancellation / change on your part and subject to whatever fees were applicable to your fare class. Call centers do take notes, so if you call about cancelling due to visa refusal, that maybe noted in your booking record and available to future agents who review your record (like later trying the denied boarding route above)

Compensation rules, forced refunds, etc apply when the airline has committed certain acts. In your case, the Embassy is the source of the problem and an airline is not responsible for a 3rd party's actions, that burden falls on your shoulders (or wallet).

From a legal point of view, the only party even remotely liable is the embassy if they required you to purchase an airline ticket before applying and then denied your application, but good luck pursuing that angle.

  • so in other words, the only recourse is buying costly fully refundable fares, hopefully getting the visa, cancelling the visa and then trying to get the cheaper non-refundable fares. – shirish Dec 8 '16 at 5:47
  • @shirish - yes basically that is it (except maybe cancel the ticket not the visa ;-). But as others have mentioned, some airlines may offer a refund as a gesture of good will, but there are no requirements to do so, just the decision of an employee to be nice. – user13044 Dec 8 '16 at 7:54

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