Dear IFTTA members, dear friends,
While the revision of the European Package Travel Directive is still delayed, the European Commission has recently surprised us with a proposal for an amended Air Passenger Rights Regulation. Because of its unclear rules and vage definitions , the existing Regulation 261/2004 has been subject to various decisions of the European Court of Justice most of which showed a tendency to extend passenger rights – sometimes far beyond the wording of the Regulation like in the widely disputed Sturgeon judgement and its recent subsequent decisions. At first glance it seems that the new draft seeks to please both parties by introducing some new rights for the passengers on the one hand and alleviate some of the consequences from CJEU jurisprudence for the carriers on the other hand. The success of these efforts is rather questionable.
In the USA passenger rights also have become an important aspect of travel law, enforced though by the DOT rathern than by private actions of affected passengers.
Despite the emphasis on „consumer protection“ the current focus on passenger rights shows a different perspective: not the consumer as the weeker part in contract negotiations is the objective of protection rules (like in traditional consumer protection laws) but a person exposed to a particular situation like traveling by air or sea. This aspect also has been discussed with regard to a new European Package Travel Directive.
While Europe keeps waiting for a renewe Package Travel Directive, the UNWTO has started to work on an international convention for the protection of travellers. It will be exciting to see the results and how they fit into the existing system of conventions, supranational and national rules.
Another important issue, of course, is the enforcement of all these rights. Is reasonable to have passengers filing court actions? Should administrative bodies take care? Or is it better to open doors for alternative dispute resolution concepts?
I am convinced that there isn't a general answer to these questions. The answer rather depends on the courts system (including costs of taking a matter to court), the legal culture and tradition of a country, the effectiveness of administrative bodies and other circumstances.
Issues like these prove the importance of an international forum as provided by IFTTA where experiences can be exchanged, different concepts can be discussed and the characteristics of various legal cultures can be compared. While electronic communication is increasing and allows for fast dissemination of news, the conferences and regional workshops are the highlights of IFTTA because of the intensity of exchange and their warm and friendly atmosphere. The recent regional workshops in Fort Lauderdale and Yerevan, both perfectly organized, served as another prove of this experience.
But it should also be our task as IFTTA not only to talk about travel and tourism law matters but to actively get involved in the international or supranational legislation processes by presenting proposals and forwarding observations to the legislator. Who if not the members of IFTTA have the expertise in this field of law? Who if not the members of IFTTA are used to analyse travel and tourism law issues from different perspectives on an international level? Which organisation if not IFTTA combines passion and experience in travel and tourism law beyond national borders?
Thus I hope that the 30th year of IFTTA will become a year of increased international recognition of its abilities and cordially invite you all to contribute.