14-Mar-2013 12:48 PM

European Commission proposes new measures to strengthen air passenger rights

European Commission announced (13-Mar-2013) 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 the 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 air passenger rights proposal clarifies legal grey areas and introduces new rights where necessary. Vice President Siim Kallas said: "It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper. We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters most – when things go wrong. . We know that the real priority for stranded passengers is just to get home. So our focus is on information, care and effective rerouting. 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." Meanwhile, the legislation specifies: "If you are outside the EU these rules only apply if you are on a European carrier". 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;
  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.

Mr Kallas noted behind the legislation is the acknowledgment for passenger that "if you are delayed you will have a right to information about what is going on after half an hour and that "everyone has the right to care - something to eat and drink - after two hours instead of four. If you are actually stuck on the plane (a tarmac delay), these rights to care still apply. And they have to take you back to the terminal after 5 hours". He also noted that the EC is "strengthening the right to re-routing", explaining: "If your carrier is not able to re-route you themselves within 12 hours, they must find another airline or put you on the train. And by the way, if you have not used the first half of a return ticket, our proposals give you a new right to use the return leg without penalty". He also explained: "If the airline is going to find you another plane, we need to give them the time do that. Otherwise you run the risk that the airline will cancel the flight altogether and you won't be going anywhere until tomorrow at the earliest. For that reason, we are giving them more time - for example on flights within the EU, moving from 5 hours instead of 3 - to sort the problem out".[more - original PR] [more - original PR - Speech] [more - original PR - Q&A]

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