Air Passenger Rights: Clarifications welcome, but re-routing options too slow, say consumers
Brussels, 13 March 2013
A more restrictive definition of extraordinary circumstances for flight cancellations Europe-wide is an important step towards improving the protection of air passenger rights, but outstanding re-routing, delay and insolvency issues are not satisfactorily dealt with in new EC proposals, says the FIA office in Brussels, a consumer body representing 106 Automobile Clubs and their 36 million members.
“The European Commission has taken a long overdue step to clarify the meaning of extraordinary circumstances for the real benefit of consumers. However, more could have been achieved on re-routing and delays. Passengers will still have to wait 12 hours before being offered new travel options on alternative carriers”, said Jacob Bangsgaard, FIA Region I Director General. “Attention now needs to be turned to effective implementation so that passengers can receive the compensation they are due without unnecessary hassle.” The Commission points to a Danish survey which shows that just 2-4% of those entitled to financial compensation receive it.
Key points of concern:
- The possibility to use alternative carriers for re-routing, only in cases where the passenger cannot arrive at final destination within 12 hours of scheduled arrival time, is an unnecessarily long time period for passengers to wait.
- Rather than focusing on voluntary measures with regard to airline insolvency, proposals should be put forward for a mandatory guarantee fund to be set up by airlines as protection for consumers. This should offer protection no matter what EU Member State consumers are based, and what method of purchase is used.
- Compensation is available for delays to flights shorter than 3500km only when arriving more than 5 hours after the scheduled arrival time. While we agree there is a need to balance consumer protection with economic interest, we believe that the ECJ’s ruling that three hours should constitute a delay is proportionate. Without such an ambitious target, airlines may lack sufficient incentives to improve timings.
Key points welcomed:
- ‘Extraordinary circumstances’ clarification: The proposal further defines the term in line with ECJ rulings as “circumstances which, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and are beyond its actual control.” While this improves clarification of the term, the inclusion of “labour disputes at the operating air carrier or at essential service providers such as airports and Air Navigation Service Providers” in the non-exhaustive list of extraordinary circumstances should be removed.
- Simple changes to flight tickets without additional charges: The proposal says “at present, passengers are sometimes penalised for spelling errors in their names by the application of punitive administrative fees. Reasonable corrections of booking errors should be provided free of charge provided they do not imply a change of times, date, itinerary or passenger.”
Following complaints from passengers, the proposal also establishes that a passenger may not be denied boarding on the return flight of his ticket on the grounds that he did not take the outbound part of the return ticket.
- Additional protection granted to persons with reduced mobility: The proposal grants no limitations to the right to care for passengers with reduced mobility, and compensation to the full value of damaged or lost mobility equipment.
Notes to the Editor:
Revision to Air Passenger Rights
Existing legislation from 2005 on Air Passenger Rights covers delays, cancellations and overbooking. However, the 2010 Ash Cloud Crisis highlighted a number of shortcomings and the Commission has now proposed revisions to the existing legislation (much of which has already been ruled on by the ECJ). See full EC proposal here.
Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Region I office
FIA Region I represents 106 Touring and Motoring Clubs in Europe, the Middle East and Africa from its Brussels office, which total more than 36 million members. The FIA represents the interest of these members as motorists, public transport users, pedestrians and tourists.
The FIA’s primary goal is to secure a mobility that is safe, affordable, sustainable and efficient. With these aims in mind the work focuses on Road Safety, Consumer Protection, Environmental Protection, and the promotion of Sustainable Motoring.
For more information, please contact Niall Carty, Communications Manager, FIA Region I: firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 282 0812