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EU lays out guidelines for saving summer vacations

The European Commission unveiled a set of recommendations Wednesday aimed at saving Europe’s ailing tourism industry and aiding Europeans in taking vacations over the summer.

The Associated Press and Reuters reported that the commission’s nonbinding recommendations include urging airlines to provide personal protective equipment and hospital-grade air filtration on flights. Using empty seats to mandate social distancing was not recommended.

“This is not going to be a normal summer, not for any of us. But when we all work together, and we all do our part … then we don’t have to face a summer stuck at home or a complete lost summer for the European tourist industry,” the commission’s executive vice president, Margrethe Vestager, said according to the AP.

The commission is the executive branch of the European Union.

Vestager added that the commission would pursue legal efforts against countries that do not allow consumers to receive cash refunds for cancelled flights or other travel purchases.

“The starting point here is that European consumers have a right to a cash refund, if that is what they want. Full stop,” she added.

Vestager went on to suggest that companies could offer vouchers for canceled travel packages, while extending the validity period of such programs in order to make them more attractive for customers and thus minimize the number of cash refunds companies are forced to dole out.

“Many companies have come under pressure and this liquidity crisis would be less severe if customers accepted vouchers instead of cash refunds,” she said.

Air travel and tourism in general have dropped significantly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in millions living under stay-at-home orders across the world. In the U.S., air travel dropped by 51 percent in March, falling to levels just slightly higher than the month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

U.S. airlines have been approved for $25 billion in cash grants from the U.S. Treasury in recent weeks, though some have said the grants will be insufficient to prevent layoffs.


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