FCCA: Virtual airlines are compared to travel agents in the Travel Agency Act

On 23 June 2014, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) prohibited the charter airline Snowbird Airlines Oy from selling flights directly to consumers before the company has been entered into the register of package travel companies maintained by the FCCA – or alternatively, before it has received an operating permit for air transport from Trafi. However, the company has appealed the decision, which means that it can continue to sell products to consumers, too, because the decision is not yet legally valid.

The decision of the FCCA is based on the Travel Agency Act, whose regulations only apply to sales to consumers – Snowbird Airlines can continue to sell flights freely to travel agents, travel agencies and other companies.

The Travel Agency Act also applies to the “virtual airlines” that sell flights directly to consumers. Airlines without an operating permit for air transport are akin to travel agents in legislation, which means that they are obligated to be entered into the FCCA’s register of package travel companies. A condition for entering into the register is that the travel agent lodges a guarantee for the trips and flights paid by consumers in advance.

Snowbird Airlines Oy has not been entered into the register of package travel companies, and it has not lodged a guarantee with the FCCA to ensure that any claims by consumers can be paid. Therefore, consumers purchasing a ticket from the company should note that the price of a ticket may not be returned to them if the company becomes bankrupt. An exception is a situation where the ticket has been paid by credit card – in that case, it is possible to apply to the credit card company for a refund.