European Union: Parliamentary Transport and Tourism Committee calls for improved air passenger rights

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

All-in air fares, airline employees able to help stranded passengers immediately, and proper compensation when airlines go bust are the key requests set out in a resolution on air passengers' rights voted by the Transport and Tourism Committee on Tuesday.

With a view to a forthcoming revision of the relevant EU legislation, the resolution calls on the European Commission to clarify air passengers' rights, ensure that legislation protecting them is applied uniformly, and take measures to improve the accountability of airlines.

Air carriers should ensure that there are contact personnel present at each airport, entitled to take immediate decisions on assistance, reimbursement, rerouting and rebooking in the event of disruption. The triple choice of "refunding, rerouting or rebooking" as a basic right in the event of travel disruption should be immediately offered to stranded passengers, MEPs say.

Additionally, where luggage is lost or delayed, the passenger should immediately receive information on rights and the relevant complaints procedure. MEPs want each air carrier to set up a mandatory central information point, and also a web site, a low-cost phone number and an email address where passengers can lodge their complaints.

MEPs also ask that the price of a flight ticket advertised on a web site should include all charges. They call on the Commission to ensure that existing legislation on unfair commercial practices is properly enforced. The resolution also suggests measures to allow passengers to correct minor booking errors or withdraw from an online reservation within 2 hours of booking.

MEPs want the role of the National Enforcement Bodies to be better defined, so that national sanctions against air carriers in breach of EU rules can be made more effective. They also want the Commission to draw up and publish airline performance records, based on the annual number of complaints. The maximum time for processing passenger complaints should be 2 months for airlines and 2 months for enforcement bodies, they add.

The report calls the "extraordinary circumstances" in which airlines do not have to pay compensation fees to be clarified, and asks the Commission to incorporate the relevant European Court of Justice ruling in the legislation. Furthermore, to achieve full accountability to passengers in "extraordinary circumstances", better cooperation and coordination are needed among air carriers, airports and related service providers, says the text, which also calls for proper compensation when airlines go bankrupt.

Persons with reduced mobility or disabilities should be granted barrier-free access to all air transport services, says the text.

The own-initiative report was approved in committee with 41 votes in favour, 1 against and 4 abstentions. The plenary vote is scheduled for 29 March.

Source: European Parliament press release of Feb. 28, 2012

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