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EU Boosts Airline Passenger Rights

flightsThe European Commission yesterday, 13 March, announced a package of measures to ensure that air passengers have new and better rights to information, care and re-routing when they are stranded at an airport. At the same time there will be better complaint procedures and enforcement measures so passengers can actually obtain the rights to which they are entitled.

The proposed revision to Regulation 261/2004 on air passenger rights clarifies legal grey areas and introduces new rights where necessary.

“It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper… The aim is to get passengers where they want to be as quickly as possible while giving the airlines the time they need to sort problems out,” Vice President Siim Kallas said.

The proposal updates passenger rights in four key areas:
1. Clarifying Grey Areas: rights to information on delayed or cancelled flights; extraordinary circumstances*; rights in relation to long delays and tarmac delays; contingency planning; rights to re-routing and rights on connecting flights.

The proposed revision to Regulation 261/2004 also sees new rights with regard to mishandled baggage.

The proposed revision to Regulation 261/2004 also sees new rights with regard to mishandled baggage.

2. New Rights: in the case of rescheduling; misspelt names; new rights with regard to mishandled baggage and transparency requirements for cabin and checked luggage.
3. Enforcement, Complaint-Procedures and Sanctioning: strengthening oversight of air carriers by national and European authorities (monitoring and joint investigations); as well as for complaint handling and enforcing individual rights (including a requirement on airlines to reply to complaints within two months); insolvency.
4. Disproportionate Financial Burden: limits to assistance; limits for regional operations; sharing the economic burden.

Regional airlines have cause for concern following the proposed revision by the European Commission to Regulation 261/2004.

“The revision does address some flaws in the current passenger rights legislation, but it also raises new worrying aspects that need to be considered,” says Simon McNamara, Director General, European Regions Airline Association (ERA).

For a full list of the European Commission’s air passenger rights proposal, press here.

* “Extraordinary circumstances” are those circumstances when air carriers are not required to pay compensation to passengers. However, the term is not clearly defined in the current Regulation (261/2004). The Commission’s proposal defines “extraordinary circumstances” as circumstances that are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and are beyond its actual control. For example, natural disasters or strikes by air traffic controllers should be seen as extraordinary, but technical problems identified during routine aircraft maintenance should not.

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