Monday, 22 July 2013

To see the Summer sky

At the end of last week, European consumer organisation BEUC published a position paper on the revision of EU Regulation 261/04 on the rights of air passengers in the event of denied boarding, cancellation and long delays (on which we reported earlier, '101 on air passengers' rights proposal').

BEUC welcomes the proposal for review of the Regulation, in particular insofar as it presents an opportunity to bring the rules on air travel in compliance with the high level of protection developed in the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU. While giving a generally favourable opinion on the proposal, BEUC observes that the suggestions for revision nevertheless reduce the consumer protection established by the CJEU on the following points:

‘- The right to compensation for long delays is weakened and deviates from the rulings of the European Court of Justice which granted passengers the right to financial compensation for delays of 3 hours or more;
- The proposal reduces the currently unlimited right to assistance in extraordinary circumstances by limiting it to the provision of accommodation to 3 nights and 100 Euros per night.’

Moreover, the proposal does not deal with certain other issues that are of importance to air passengers in Europe. BEUC suggests that the proposal should include the following elements:

‘- A full ban of the “no-show” clause;
- The right to re-routing by other means of transport should be granted as soon as possible (the 12 hours timescale should be deleted);
- The right to re-routing should also be granted to passengers who suffer a long delay;
- A presumption that technical problems are not an “extraordinary circumstance”, should be introduced;
- Pre-announced strikes and labour disputes should not be considered “extraordinary circumstances”;
- Weather conditions which have been foreseen and predicted should not be considered “extraordinary circumstances” as a matter of course;
- The prices of air tickets advertised by airlines should be obliged to include the following minimum services: checking-in, provision of boarding pass and 1 item of checked luggage;
- Aside from one item of hand luggage, passengers should have the right to carry their essential items and the airport retail purchases.
- The right to correct spelling mistakes should be extended to booking mistakes of day and time;
- Passengers should have the right to transfer their tickets to another person in case they are prevented from travelling;
- Airlines should be obliged to regularly report on the quality of their services (e.g. on delays and cancellation rates);
- The right of passengers to file complaints with airlines should not be subject to time limits;
- Airlines should be obliged to adhere to Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or on line dispute resolution (ODR) schemes;
- Airlines should be obliged to have a representative in each airport where they operate;
- Airlines should be easily accessible for consumers by providing passengers with inexpensive telephone contacts and e-mails addresses;
- When baggage is delayed or lost, airlines should be obliged to compensate passengers for each day of delay. Once found the airlines should be obliged to transport it to the consumer;
- The scope of the Regulation should be extended to non-EU carriers arriving in the European Union (and European Economic Area);
- A mandatory guarantee that airlines reimburse and repatriate passengers in instances of insolvency should be introduced.’

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