European Commission: Member States still need to strengthen enforcement of air passenger rights

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

The European Commission has published today a review of passenger rights' complaint handling and enforcement in the European air transport sector between 2010 and 2012. The review shows that complaints to national authorities for compensation and assistance have returned to lower levels since the exceptional year 2010 (ash cloud crisis, snow disruptions). Also, airlines get sanctioned in only 1% of the cases as most of the complaints are settled without having to resort to such measures in order to ensure enforcement. Complaints from disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility about problems in air transport remain very low in general and no sanctions were imposed to airlines for such cases.

The statistics are based on data provided by the National Enforcement Bodies (NEBs) of the 28 Member States and Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. The main findings of the report are:

  • The number of complaints received by NEBs under the Regulation establishing compensation for and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay (Regulation (EC) 261/2004) was 91,726 in 2010, 52,675 in 2011 and 56,478 in 2012.
  • In the reporting period NEBs were reluctant to sanction infringing air-carriers. Sanctions were applied only in little more than 1% of cases. This shows that sanctions are still the last resort after all other means to ensure compliance have failed.

  • Yet, sanctions imposed by NEBs on infringing airlines are better followed through and applied. This means that despite their low number sanctions are becoming more than just a paper warning.

  • The number of complaints received by NEBs under the Regulation establishing the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air (Regulation (EC) 1107/2006) was 128 in 2010 and 111 in 2011. It increased to 275 in 2012 but this increase is a pure statistical effect - as from that year data for the UK were also included – and does not reflect an underlying trend. No sanctions were imposed on air carriers.

The data cover both air passenger rights regulations: Regulation (EC) 261/2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights and Regulation (EC) 1107/2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air.

The Commission is committed to ensure that citizens can effectively exercise their rights when travelling by air. At the same time it is dedicated to promote a level playing field among air carriers across the EU, inter alia by encouraging the publication of sanctions imposed by Member States' authorities. The statistical document responds to the calls from various sources (i.a. EP, Member States, air transport industry) for reliable data on how Member States are carrying out their duties regarding complaint handling and enforcement.

On 13 March 2013, the Commission proposed 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, and at the same time better complaint procedures and enforcement measures.

The proposal is currently under discussion with the European Parliament and the Council.

Source: EU Commission press release of May 15, 2014

Report available here>>.

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