The European Commission last month tabled a proposal that, if adopted, would oblige airlines to pay a hefty sum to passengers forced to miss their flights either through overbooking or cancellation.
The proposal, unveiled by one of the two commission vice-presidents, Loyola de Palacio – whose portfolio includes transport, energy and relations with the European Parliament – would considerably increase compensation for passengers left out of overbooked flights and introduce compensation even for canceled flights.
According to commission figures, some 250,000 passengers with valid tickets are left out of overbooked flights originating at European Union airports each year.
Under present regulations, such passengers are entitled to compensation varying between 150 and 300 euros. Airlines also offer passengers the option of taking a later flight.
The proposed directive would increase compensation to 750 euros per passenger for flights covering a distance of up to 3,500 kilometers and to 1,500 euros for longer flights. In case, however, the airline managed to get a passenger to his or her destination within two hours of the scheduled arrival for short flights, or within four hours for longer flights, the compensation would be cut in half. The same compensation scale would be enforced for canceled flights.
Shifting passengers to later flights would be obligatory in every case unless they choose to have their tickets fully refunded.
The airlines would also be responsible for catering to the passengers, including room and board at conveniently located hotels, if necessary. The right to new bookings, refunds and catering would also apply in cases of “excessive delays,” which the Commission proposal does not specify at present.
Passengers may be asked if they volunteer to forfeit any of the above rights if the airline increases its compensation. Unaccompanied children and persons with special needs would be exempt from this provision.