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Passenger Rights

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Joint Associations Gibraltar Letter.pdf
IAG Guidelines on Air Passenger Rights - FINAL.pdf
EC Proposal for Revision to Regulation 261/2004

Latest update 12/05/2017: please see below for more details.

Overview

Regulation (EC) 261/2004 was introduced less than a decade ago as an attempt to pave the way for European rules to protect air passengers in the events of flight cancellations, denied boarding and delays. As widely acknowledged by passengers’ and airline associations, as well as by National Enforcement Bodies, the regulation was badly written, unclear and hard to implement and enforce in a consistent and equal way across Europe, leading to further uncertainties for operators and consumers alike.

The long-awaited proposal for revision of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights was published by the European Commission on 13 March 2013. 

The political deadlock over the issue of Gibraltar has unfortunately further delayed the adoption of a new Regulation and the text is still under the scrutiny of EU member states.

ERA’s Current Position

ERA and its member airlines support the protection of consumers. However, the rights of consumers must strike a fair balance between protecting passengers and not unduly burden airlines and passengers with excessive regulation or costs. All players within the 'aviation supply chain' must be liable for their actions or misconduct affecting the rights of passengers.

The airline market within Europe is de-regulated and fiercely competitive. This has resulted in more routes being developed, innovative products and technologies, lower prices and greater choices for consumers.

ERA strongly opposes the imposition of any regulation which would reduce the ability of consumers to choose different products, services and prices for air travel.

Additional regulation to control a free market would reduce and limit consumer choice, stifle innovation and increase the cost of air travel. Additional regulation will also lead to a further discrimination of air transport compared to other modes of transport. Instead, common passenger rights should be established covering the basic rights on all modes of transport.

Update

Latest update 12/05/2017: On 4 May the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that bird strikes are extraordinary circumstances. This is a positive development in favour of airlines and means that operators are not obliged to pay compensation if a long delay (more than three hours) or cancellation is caused by bird strike.

The judge ruled that bird strikes are "neither intrinsically linked to an aircraft’s operating system nor inherent in a carriers’ normal activities".  This judgement went against an earlier ruling in a court, on a national level, and is a position long supported by the airline industry.

The full ECJ ruling can be found here: https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2017-05/cp170044en.pdf

On 22 March 2017, ERA submitted members' comments to the European Commission, together with other airspace user organisations, encouraging the Commission to publish guidance to passengers regarding the so called ‘claims farms’ following a number of allegations of incorrect practices and misbehaviour by some claim agencies.

This guidance has now been published on the Commission's website: https://ec.europa.eu/transport/sites/transport/files/2017-03-09-information-note-air-passenger-rights-on-claim-agencies_en.pdf and members are encouraged to put this link on their own websites for their passengers information.

In summary, the guidance details that:

Passengers should always try first to contact the airline before considering any other action. In addition, National Enforcement Bodies, which are public authorities responsible for the enforcement of passenger rights rules at national level, exist in all member states. They can be contacted freely and can provide all necessary information. Alternative Dispute Resolution processes can also help to mediate between passengers and air carriers.

The notice reminds passengers who have a claim to contact the airline first and it draws their attention to the following key legal obligations of claim agencies:

  • Claim agencies must clearly display the price of their services, i.e. showing an initial price on their website which includes all applicable fees.
  • Claim agencies must be able to produce a clear power of attorney, i.e. a lawyer entitled to practice such profession.
  • Claim agencies should not resort to persistent unsolicited telemarketing.
  • No ticket vendor, tour operator or travel agent is allowed to transmit the passenger personal data to claim agencies, unless specifically permitted by the passenger.
     

On 13th August the European Commission sent the European Parliament its opinion on the Parliament’s first reading position on the new Air Passenger Rights Regulation. The document outlines in detail the Commission’s stance on each of the over 160 amendments adopted by MEPs during a Plenary vote in February this year.  The European Parliament is keen to start negotiations with the Council as soon as possible after the recess, but the EU Member States have not so far agreed on a common position that would allow inter-institutional negotiations to start. The industry position seems to be endorsed by the Commission in some crucial areas of the proposal, namely on: requirements for insolvency insurance and/or guarantee fund for stranded passengers; airline liability to delays caused by other modes of transport; Re-routing in case of delays; Liability of carriers for delays caused by other modes of transport in multimodal journeys; Definition of technical problems as “extraordinary circumstances”; Delay thresholds triggering compensation; Compensation levels for short-haul flights; Cap for hotel nights accommodation in case of extraordinary circumstances; Exemption from accommodation obligations for very short regional routes (<250 kms); provision of extensive information to NEBs on all technical problems occurred; Cabin baggage allowance; no show policy; right of redress to recover costs from third parties causing disruption.On the other hand, the Commission’s views are not aligned with the industry’s in the following subjects: Compensation in case of missed connecting flights; Re-routing on another air carrier/transport mode if expected delay at destination is more than 8 hours (iso 12 hrs); Obligation for carriers to inform the passenger, within 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time, whether it will transport the passenger on its own services; Right for passenger to refuse re-routing on other transport mode; Lack of EU-wide statutory limitation of 2 years for civil-law claims.On 13th August the European Commission sent the European Parliament its opinion on the Parliament’s first reading position on the new Air Passenger Rights Regulation. The document outlines in detail the Commission’s stance on each of the over 160 amendments adopted by MEPs during a Plenary vote in February this year.  The European Parliament is keen to start negotiations with the Council as soon as possible after the recess, but the EU Member States have not so far agreed on a common position that would allow inter-institutional negotiations to start. The industry position seems to be endorsed by the Commission in some crucial areas of the proposal, namely on: requirements for insolvency insurance and/or guarantee fund for stranded passengers; airline liability to delays caused by other modes of transport; Re-routing in case of delays; Liability of carriers for delays caused by other modes of transport in multimodal journeys; Definition of technical problems as “extraordinary circumstances”; Delay thresholds triggering compensation; Compensation levels for short-haul flights; Cap for hotel nights accommodation in case of extraordinary circumstances; Exemption from accommodation obligations for very short regional routes (<250 kms); provision of extensive information to NEBs on all technical problems occurred; Cabin baggage allowance; no show policy; right of redress to recover costs from third parties causing disruption.On the other hand, the Commission’s views are not aligned with the industry’s in the following subjects: Compensation in case of missed connecting flights; Re-routing on another air carrier/transport mode if expected delay at destination is more than 8 hours (iso 12 hrs); Obligation for carriers to inform the passenger, within 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time, whether it will transport the passenger on its own services; Right for passenger to refuse re-routing on other transport mode; Lack of EU-wide statutory limitation of 2 years for civil-law claims.What we are planning
The revision process of EU Regulation 261/2004 on Air Passenger Rights is far from complete. Following adoption of the Parliament position, the EU member States (Council) must agree its own position before the final law is adopted. ERA will continue to lobby to redress some of the key areas of concern emerging from the recent Parliament’s vote. The September ERA’s Industry Affairs Group has discussed a draft document that includes best practice advice to minimise potential claims, based on member’s own experiences. The Guidelines have now been finalized and posted on the ERA website for ‘members only’.
Timescales
Following the inability of the Council to reach a general approach before the summer, the Italian Presidency (July-December 2014) is expected to continue talks within the Council’s aviation working party in the autumn, possibly with a view to agreeing a general approach at a meeting of EU Transport Ministers in r December.  The final Air Passenger Rights Regulation is expected to be adopted in 2015 at the earliest, with the new rules entering into force in 2016-17. The last Industry Affairs advisory Group, that took place in London on 9-10 September, represented another good opportunity for ERA members to share their main concerns on the on-going revision process of Air Passenger legislation and to further steer the Directorate’s lobbying actio
Useful links

http://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/passengers/news/doc/2016-06-10-better-enforcement-pax-rights/c(2016)3502_en.pdf 

Papers

All associated papers are available by clicking on the Related Download button on this page.

Contacts

For further assistance please contact caroline.osullivan@eraa.org