Consumer rights: EU to enforce tough airline passenger right

Reply Wed 16 Feb, 2005 09:50 am
New rules on passenger rights taking effect Thursday in the European Union will require airlines to compensate travellers for cancellations, delays, and denial of seats, even when the cause is an event normally considered outside the control of the airline, like bad weather conditions. The new legislation [link to official text], the strictest in the world, places the burden of proof on airlines if they wish to avoid payment.

European air carriers have agreed to abide by the legislation, but are challenging certain portions in the European Court of Justice, though a decision isn't expected there for several months.

EU air passenger rights website
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 16 Feb, 2005 09:52 am
Air transport: Europe reinforces passengers' rights
As of 17 Febuary, citizens will enjoy new rights when flying. Thanks to a new Regulation applicable in all the Member States, greater protection is being afforded to air passengers in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellation or long delays.

As Jacques Barrot, European Commission Vice-President responsible for Transport, has noted: "The boom in air travel needs to be accompanied by proper protection of passengers' rights. This is a concrete example of how the Union benefits people's daily lives. Competitiveness and competition in the air sector go hand in hand with guaranteed passengers' rights."

Despite the efforts of the air industry, passengers sometimes have difficulty enforcing their rights when they encounter inconvenience during air travel. For instance, more than five million pieces of luggage were lost or damaged in 2004 by European airlines and 250 000 passengers were denied boarding in 2002.

The new Regulation[1] enters into force tomorrow, introducing very significant improvements to the protection of air passengers' rights in the Union. It should help bring about a dramatic reduction in the frequency of denied boarding, for which airlines will have to pay compensation as a deterrent (€250 for flights of less than 1 500 km, €400 for flights of between 1 500 and 3 500 km and €600 for flights of more than 3 500 km). Passengers will be compensated for late cancellation and will receive assistance in the event of long delays. There is no right to compensation for cancellation if the airline can provide evidence of extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided.

The Regulation applies to all flights, including charters, operated by European airlines from or to a European airport and to any flight departing from the European Union. The Commission is certain that the application of these new rights will considerably improve the quality of service that European airlines provide to their customers. This will make those airlines more competitive.

Passengers must be properly informed if they are to enforce their rights effectively. The European Commission has therefore decided to launch an information campaign at airports and travel agencies across the European Union. Airlines too are obliged to inform passengers about their rights.

The new Regulation also requires each State to set up an independent body responsible for dealing with passengers' complaints and any disputes they may have with airlines, which will help to avoid long and expensive court cases.

To date, only 15 States [2] have established such a body: the Commission will refer the matter to the Court of Justice if the other States fail to comply. Furthermore, the Commission is ready to advise passengers and follow up cases where their rights have not been respected. Indeed, over the last 3 years the Commission has already looked into more than 2 000 complaints lodged with it.

Full press release with footnotes, links etc
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 10:34 am
The European Court of Justice on Tuesday upheld a law [text] that requires airlines to pay compensation to passengers who experience long flight delays, overbooking and cancellation on flights to and from the European Union.
The International Air Transport Association and the European Low Fares Airline Association had challenged the EU regulation, arguing the law was too costly to implement and some conditions were outside of the airlines' control.

Under the law, passengers may be compensated up to $725 (600 euros) if they are denied a seat because of overbooking. In other cases, airlines must provide food, lodging or a trip back to the point of departure. The court ruled that the regulation does not violate the Montreal Convention [text] and does not violate the principle of proportionality.

EU air passenger rights website

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