steps forward and one step back.
appears to be the thrust of a new European Union (EU) proposal, unveiled on Wednesday
13 March, to reform air travellers’ rights with a new passenger
bill of rights, the first such update since the EU brought in its passenger
rights legislation eight years ago.
proposed rules are intended to clarify traveller rights and airline
obligations, as well as identify better passenger treatment in the case of
delayed, cancelled or rerouted flights.
If approved, the proposals, which are subject to approval by EU member
states and the European Parliament, would become part of European law in early
2015, affecting all carriers that take off from an airport in an EU member
come three years after an
Icelandic volcano eruption grounded flights for nearly a week and stranded
thousands of passengers across Europe, causing headaches for the air travel
community and costing airlines some $2 billion in lost revenue and
The new measures
the case of flight cancellations, airlines must reimburse passengers’ tickets
within seven days or re-route passengers to their final destination
- If a
flight is delayed for more than 12 hours, airlines must reroute travellers,
even on rival carriers
- In the
case of long delays, airlines must provide care in the form of meals,
accommodation and transportation for delays of two hours or more for flights of
1,500km or less; three hours or more for flights between 1,500km and 3,500km;
four hours or more for flights more than 3,500km.
must also inform passengers about delays and provide an explanation no later
than 30 minutes after scheduled departure time
must acknowledge receipt of a complaint within one week and provide a formal
reply within two months
Though the proposed
passenger bill of rights will definitely help travellers, critics
contend that they fall short – and even restrict rights – in some regards.
would not be liable for delays and cancellations due to extraordinary
circumstances including extreme weather, air traffic controller strikes or
addition, airline compensation for lodging in the case of delays and
cancellations would be capped at three nights hotel accommodation. Beyond that,
the responsibility for lodging displaced travellers would lie with local
authorities, not airlines.
compensation for delays would also be curtailed. Passengers on intra-European
flights would have to be delayed for at least five hours before being eligible
for compensation; while those on inter-continental flights would have to experience
delays of at least nine hours before rights to compensation kick in.
also been given more time to respond to passenger complaints and more time to
reroute passengers in the case of cancellations or delays – for example the delay
threshold for intra-European flights would grow from three to five hours under the
also contend that the measures are inherently weakened because passengers’ widespread
ignorance of their rights is often exploited by airlines – who will not offer accommodation,
reimbursement or re-routing unless specifically asked.
more, the measures don’t specify how the European Commission will enforce
regulations or penalise airlines that don’t satisfy traveller rights.
reasons, critics, such as the BEUC,
the European consumer rights group, believe the proposed measures don’t go far
has missed the opportunity to put an end to many existing unfair contract terms,”
said in a statement. “Rights which exist on paper but left unrealised
mean passengers are doubly stranded. So we hope this prompts a much-needed
upsurge in airlines’ respect for passenger rights.”