Finnair does not intend to pay passengers a so-called standard compensation for flights canceled within the next two weeks. The standard compensation is an EU statutory compensation of between € 250 and € 600, which the airline may have to pay to passengers in case of cancellation of a flight earlier than 14 days.
Finnair announced on Sunday that it would cancel several European flights at the end of March due to low passenger numbers.
Read more: Finnair cancels huge number of European flights - Giant list announced
Today, on Monday, Finnair announced that it would cancel all flights to Rome between March 12 and April 7. Earlier, the company said it would suspend its Milan flight.
Read more: Finnair cancels all its Rome flights
The company justifies the cancellation of its Rome and Milan flights with the Foreign Ministry's Travel Bulletin. Yesterday's bulletin advised us to avoid unnecessary travel to Italy due to the coronavirus situation.
Finnair informs passengers that they have the opportunity to cancel their flight due to cancellation of flights, to request Finnair to arrange alternative flights or to claim a refund for unused airline tickets and additional services paid in advance.
According to the FCA, the mere reduction in demand for a particular flight is not in itself sufficient reason to cancel the flight without paying standard compensation to the passengers.
- If the cancellation is made less than two weeks before the flight and for purely commercial reasons because of reduced demand, then the passenger is, in principle, entitled to a standard compensation, says Satu Topfer of the FCA.
However, for European flights, the amount of compensation will not increase to EUR 600. Also, the proposed re-routing and its schedule will influence the amount of the standard compensation.
If the airline has offered re-routing and the time of arrival at the destination would not differ significantly from the original, then the passenger does not have to pay a standard compensation. The same applies if the flight is canceled for extraordinary reasons which could not have been reasonably avoided by the airline.
According to Toepfer, quarantines and government measures can influence when an emergency situation is considered.
"There is no precedent for a corona type case," Toepfer says.
- However, in general, situations outside the normal operation of the airline and beyond its actual control are exceptional. It is likely that passengers' claims will have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the reason for the cancellation, the time and the recommendations of the authorities.
Finnair relies on official regulations
Finnair has announced the cancellation of 1,400 flights, including Rome flights. Most cancellations are made before the 14-day deadline, in which case the company is not liable for any compensation beyond the refund of the ticket price.
There are several flights canceled yesterday with less than two weeks' departure date. Over the next two weeks, Finnair has canceled flights between Helsinki and Oulu, Gothenburg, Billund, Arlanda, Oslo, London, Berlin, Hanover and Warsaw.
According to the company, it plans to reimburse passengers for the tickets, but does not pay the standard compensation.
- We have paid the standard EU compensation at the beginning of the situation if the cancellation has been made within less than 14 days, says Manti Väätäinen-Pereira, Communications Manager, Finnair.
- Now the coronavirus situation has expanded, the authorities in several countries have now imposed various travel restrictions on the countries where the virus has spread. The authorities have also come up with many other exemptions, including quarantining people and restricting the movement of people. We now treat this overall situation as an extraordinary circumstance, meaning that these standard flights will no longer be paid for these canceled flights.
The extraordinary circumstances mentioned in EU legislation mean that an airline could not have been avoided even if it had taken all reasonable steps to do so.
However, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the THL have not warned against traveling to, for example, London, Berlin, let alone the Nordic countries or Oulu. The company itself also justified several cancellations in its announcement with low passenger numbers, not the risk of infection.
"However, it is related to the coronavirus situation," Väätäinen-Pereira explains.
- There have been drop-offs of commuters, for example from Oulu via Helsinki somewhere to Italy. The general drop in demand is very closely linked to the interest rate.
Finnair is on the blacklist of the Consumer Disputes Board, as it is among the ten most common companies to complain to the Consumer Disputes Board, and has not followed the Board's guidelines on compensation.
Read more: Up to 120,000 Finns would be entitled to flight compensation - see when disruption should be compensated