2nd Apr 2020

Brussels notes improvement in airline websites

The vast majority of air companies selling tickets online across Europe have improved their websites since an EU investigation launched almost two years ago found they were misleading consumers, the European Commission has said.

The commission originally found breaches in 137 out of the 386 websites but 115 of these have since been corrected, it said on Thursday (14 May).

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The main problems on which the companies have worked include misleading prices – especially in the way some fares are displayed not including taxes and additional charges almost until the payment has been completed, and pre-checked boxes for optional services, such as taking insurance.

The advertising of some dubious "special offers" was also among the main concerns identified by the commission, which said "practices used to lure consumers in with attractive offers with no or very limited availability are illegal."

The commission says that in around 80 percent of the cases where it had found problems, companies have complied and corrected their websites.

Of the nearly 70 companies it scrutinised, 52 have either complied with the commission's standards or are in the process of doing so.

Sixteen, including Virgin Atlantic, Spanair, Iberia, Portugal's TAP, Finnair and Estonian Air, have met all the criteria and committed to maintain their websites' quality level.

Almost 40 others, including low-cost carriers Ryan Air, Wizzair and Easy Jet, as well as a number of national companies such as Germany's Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Alitalia, Czech Airlines, Bulgaria Air and Poland's LOT, have improved their record and promised to work on their remaining deficiencies.

"The Europe-wide airline investigation is changing the face of airline websites across the EU. There has been a major clean up of airline websites compared to what we found when we started two years ago," said EU consumer commissioner Meglena Kuneva at a press conference presenting the results.

But a dozen air companies did not respond to Brussels' criticism and "still give us a real cause of concern," Ms Kuneva stressed.

These include Russia's Aeroflot, Greece's Olympic Airlines, Air Baltic and Turkish Airlines.

Hours before the commission unveiled its lists, Air France-KLM and British Airways were moved from this third category of carriers to the one of companies that have committed to improve their record, after informing Brussels they would move to meet its demands.

The fact that some companies "did not bother" to react, however, is a signal that "they don't care" sufficiently about consumers, Ms Kuneva said.

In these cases, the commission says it will now be up to the national regulators in the member states hosting the companies to act.

They could bring the companies to court for misleading consumers, fine them or even close down their websites until they fall into line.

Brussels carried out its investigation across 15 member states and Norway.

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