The European Commission has given airlines and member states six months to make the EC’s new air passenger rights regulation work. It said it would provide airlines with full support in an effort to complete the process.
The passenger rights regulation put forth new rules on compensation and assistance for air passengers in the event of denied boarding, cancellations, long delays and involuntary downgrading.
According to the EC regulation, depending on the circumstances mentioned above, airlines must provide passengers with assistance such as accommodation, refreshments, meals and communication facilities, offer re-routing and refunds, and pay compensation. And they must proactively inform passengers about their rights under the regulation.
For its part, the Commission has prepared updated information material in order to better guide passengers concerning their rights. Besides new information on air passenger rights published on the European Commission’s website, a new poster explaining these rights will be available at all airports before the summer.
“Although there is no doubt that air passengers enjoy better protection today,” said Jacques Barrot, the Commission’s vice president in charge of transport, “we must make sure that airlines and member states fully comply with their obligations.”
He says that although stranded passengers now have specific rights, airlines often do not inform passengers about these rights when their flights are disrupted although the regulation obliges them to do so.
Meanwhile, the European Regions Airline Association and the International Air Carrier Association say they agree with establishing rights for passengers on all modes of transport in certain circumstances, but that the EC regulation suffers from ambiguity and lack of clarity, and imposes remedies that are sometimes impossible to deliver.
The European airline association said it also welcomed the recent decision of the European Ombudsman to replace information that was to contain inaccurate and misleading statements.
In the Commission’s recent report, which evaluates the results and the application of the regulations, it said that further important steps should be taken to ensure that airlines apply the rules more consistently and that these rules are better enforced by member states.
The Commission considers that further work is needed in a number of areas, such as improving enforcement, clarifying the interpretation of certain aspects of the regulation, establishing clarity between delays and cancellations as different rights are awarded to the passengers depending on the circumstances, and enhancing the role of the national enforcement bodies that oversee the application of the common rules.
During the next six months, the Commission said it would intensify cooperation with the national enforcement bodies and airlines in order to achieve better results. If the final outcome remains unsatisfactory, the Commission will initiate infringement procedures against member states.