Friday, 15 March 2013

Passenger rights, work in progress

Many entries on this blog concern air passengers. Our readers are acquainted with the dense "safety net" provided by EU legislation and reinforced by the CJEU. However, most of those who have experienced flight delays will also have found out how tiring and- potentially- frustrating it can be to claim all those rights in concrete situations, when the airline is not so keen on complying spontaneously. 

In particular, statistics consulted by the Commission seem to confirm that, whereas re-routing in case of cancelled flights is usually not a problem, obtaining compensation is often beyond reach, and "assistance" duties are also interpreted very differently by different companies. 

In order to make passenger rights more effective, a new package of measures has thus been proposed which, while revising Regulation 261/2004, addresses four identified problematic issues:

1. Legal grey areas: lacking definitions and unclear provisions;
2. Complaint handling: airlines' complaint-handling procedures are sometimes ill-defined or there is no complaint handling body to turn to;
3. Sanctioning: inconsistent or insufficiently effective sanctioning policies by national authorities; 
4. Disproportionate financial costs imposed on the airlines.

The proposal will both clarify (specify) existing rights and introduce additional ones, by complementing the existing 10 "basic rights"- for instance, the right to immediate care is "proceduralised" to impose clear obligations on the carrier. On the other hand, the proposal aims at reducing the burden on airlines, inter alia by facilitating redress on third parties when these are responsible for the delay- which will require the approximation of national rules on the matter. We will see how MS will react to this...

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