BARCELONA, Spain--(BUSINESS WIRE)--eDreams ODIGEO, one of the world’s largest online travel companies, today revealed a comprehensive set of proactive measures implemented across the Company to protect consumers. These commitments are focused on three key areas: leveraging technology to deliver exceptional customer service, enhancing financial protection for consumers, and advocating for consumer rights with key regulatory bodies.
Advancing refunds from trusted airlines and discontinuing sales from non-compliant carriers
While major airline carriers have improved their refund timeframes and are now reimbursing travellers on time, there is still a group of carriers that do not refund in a timely manner. According to EC regulation 261/04 – transferred into UK law post Brexit - the obligation to refund travellers for flight cancellations rests with airlines, which are required to return customers’ money within seven days. However, some airlines are taking several weeks and even months to process refund requests that the Company has placed on behalf of its customers.
As a result, eDreams ODIGEO has decided to discontinue the sale of tickets for 15 airlines that have consistently breached their refund obligations to consumers. While the Company will not disclose the brands of the concerned airlines at this time, it may revisit this decision if the carriers continue to withhold customer refunds. In the meantime, the Company continues to work on behalf of its customers to retrieve these refunds.
For a select group of airline partners that are showing consistent compliance with refund regulations, the eDreams ODIGEO travel brands (eDreams, Opodo, GO Voyages and Travellink) are advancing refunds to customers before the operating carrier releases the funds. This means in these cases travellers booking with eDreams ODIGEO receive their refunds significantly faster than if they would have booked elsewhere, including direct. On an annualised basis, the Company is already processing over 15 million euros in advanced refunds to customers and intends to broaden its scope in the near future. Through the provision of advanced refunds, the business has effectively reduced the average waiting period to just four days, well below the seven-day limit that airlines must adhere to. The move is testament to eDreams ODIGEO’s commitment to return refunds to customers as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
These practices in support of consumers go far beyond industry norms and build on the recent initiatives launched by eDreams ODIGEO and other major European intermediaries to support consumers with refunds; most notably the commitment to transfer ticket refunds within seven days after receiving them from the airlines where airlines meet their own refund obligations. These commitments follow on from a positive and open dialogue between leading European OTAs, including eDreams ODIGEO, the European Commission and national consumer authorities (CPC network) about how to support travellers when flights are cancelled by airlines.
Advocating on behalf of travellers with regulators
eDreams ODIGEO has been advocating for stronger enforcement against airlines that do not comply with applicable passenger regulations and will continue to do so. The Company has worked closely with key bodies such as the European Commission and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority with whom it shares valuable insights on the state of refund policy adherence in the airline industry. Through collaborative efforts between eDreams ODIGEO, other industry peers and major airlines, significant strides have been made in the industry to the benefit of travellers, including the reimbursement of unused vouchers and the clearing of refund backlogs1.
Also, while other participants and products in the travel industry offer some degree of protection to consumers in case of a provider's bankruptcy, customers who book standalone flights do not have the same level of protection in the event of airline insolvency. In light of this, the Company has joined forces with other industry peers to call on regulators to establish a bankruptcy fund to better safeguard customers in the event of airline insolvency2. This is just one of the many ways in which eDreams ODIGEO is advocating for stronger consumer protection measures.
Leveraging technology to drive customer service excellence
In response to the pandemic, eDreams ODIGEO undertook the biggest operational effort ever seen in the Company’s 23-year history to support its customers, growing its refund operations teams by tenfold and increasing its front-line support agents by 550 additional staff members. This enabled eDreams ODIGEO to provide resolutions to over 6.4 million travellers hit by airline and airport disruptions since March 2020.
Throughout the pandemic until now, flight disruptions have continued to be a constant challenge in the industry, making it essential for travellers to receive assistance with travel rearrangements and refund requests. The Company’s success in securing customer resolutions during such an unprecedented period of travel disruption was delivered by leveraging its technology capabilities. The Company introduced an industry-leading digital self-service platform that enables customers to efficiently manage their itineraries without the need for agent assistance. The significant investments in customer service technology, coupled with enhanced training for travel agents, have streamlined its customer service and enabled 24/7 booking management. As a result of these investments, the company has achieved the following milestones, which will serve as a foundation for future improvements:
- Making flight disruptions hassle-free for travellers: Leveraging technology, the company has made resolving millions of airline and airport disruptions easier for consumers. Already, 91% of customers use digital channels to easily resolve disruptions, such as flight cancellations and schedule changes, eliminating the need for communication with customer service teams. The company is committed to further enhancing these digital channels to provide even better support to customers affected by disruptions.
- Elevating customer service: Committed to continuous improvement, the company has achieved nearly 8 in 10 assisted support calls being answered within just 60 seconds. The company will seek to further improve this level of service availability, while also investing in qualitative improvements and additional skill development and training for agents to ensure that customers receive the highest level of support possible.
- Doing the right thing with refunds: The Company’s commitment to providing prompt refunds to customers is unwavering. Whenever airlines offer automatic refunds, eDreams ODIGEO strives to pass them on to travellers within hours. However, in situations where airlines do not provide fast-track refunds, the Company will work hard to retrieve the funds from the airline as quickly as possible and pass them on to its customers. The Company will continue to advocate for all airlines to re-enable the automatic refund processes that were disabled during the pandemic so that customers receive their refunds without delay. In addition, the Company will expand the scope of advanced refunds for trusted airlines beyond the current 15 million euros yearly, thereby reducing average waiting time to just 4 days. This move is a testament to the business's commitment to supporting travellers affected by airline disruptions, going above and beyond the travel agent’s responsibilities.
- Raising the bar for customer satisfaction: The company places a high priority on customer satisfaction and strives for excellence. 9 out of 10 customers currently report being satisfied to very satisfied with the service they have received, and the company will continue to build upon this achievement through ongoing improvements to customer service and support.
Dana Dunne, Chief Executive Officer at eDreams ODIGEO said: “Our customers have always been the driving force behind everything that we do. Today, we are proud to announce a comprehensive set of measures that will enhance our strong pandemic response to provide even higher levels of reassurance and confidence for travellers who book with us. Our goal is to make our customers feel supported and accompanied throughout their entire journey, especially at times of industry disruptions. As advocates for our customers, we recognise the crucial role that online travel agencies like eDreams ODIGEO play in representing consumers' interests before key industry stakeholders. As the world's largest flight retailer outside of China, we will continue leveraging our position to drive further significant advancements for consumers in our industry. We appreciate the continued cooperation of our airline partners and regulatory bodies in this effort and are looking forward to continuing to work closely with them for the benefit of travellers worldwide. Enhancing our customers' experience will always be our top priority."
About eDreams ODIGEO
eDreams ODIGEO is the world’s leading travel subscription platform and one of the largest e-commerce businesses in Europe. Under its four renowned online travel agency brands – eDreams, GO Voyages, Opodo, Travellink, and the metasearch engine Liligo – it serves more than 20 million customers per year across 44 markets. Listed on the Spanish Stock Market, eDreams ODIGEO works with nearly 700 airlines. The business conceptualised Prime, the first subscription product in the travel sector which has topped 4.6 million members since launching in 2017. The brand offers the best quality products in regular flights, low-cost airlines, hotels, dynamic packages, cruises, car rental and travel insurance to make travel easier, more accessible, and better value for consumers across the globe.