Complaints About Online Travel Agencies Pile Up

Passengers claiming refunds for cancelled flights left in the dark from online travel agents - book with high street travel agents for more security, says air passenger rights specialist

Travellers who have booked only airline tickets with so-called OTAs (online travel agencies) are often left in the dark about their passenger rights when it comes to cancellations.

In recent months there have been an increasing number of complaints from travellers who have booked their flights with online travel agencies and are now waiting in vain for a refund for their cancelled flights.

Based on the EU’s Passenger Rights Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, passengers have a right to a full refund of their ticket costs in case of flight cancellations.

“As a rule, the agency with whom the ticket was booked will take care of the claiming process. However, it has been found that online travel agents often leave their customers out in the cold. In general, there is a great deal of uncertainty. The customer does not know where he stands and his legal rights as a passenger are ignored”, says Tom van Bokhoven, Founder of

Air passenger rights specialist, deals with the rights of these consumers on a daily basis and assists them in enforcing their claims.

An analysis of various complaints received daily by from travellers shows that most passengers try to enforce their air passenger rights with the online provider with whom they booked the flight ticket, however this can lead to various difficulties.

In certain cases, online travel agencys have received the refund from the airline but decided to only offer their customer a voucher or claim that they have never received the refund. This risk can be avoided by contacting the airline directly or booking with a high street travel agent.

Mr van Bokhoven explains: “Regardless of the booking partner, the airline is always responsible for paying the refund within seven days of the cancellation.”

According to information provided by affected passengers to, most online travel agencies refer to the airline’s booking conditions in order to avoid refund payments in case of flight cancellations. These terms and conditions can differ from agency to agency which makes it difficult for customers to keep an overview of all the different rules.

“It is all the more important that passengers receive their money promptly after cancellation and that policy chaos on the part of online travel agencies is avoided. There must be clarity and certainty for passengers that they can claim their money directly from the airline and that it will be paid out as quickly as possible,” concluded Mr van Bokhoven.