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13 March 2013
EU to revise Air Passenger Rights
The European Commission are proposing to change Air Passenger Rights but it's not just improvements for passengers. The airlines get reduced liabilities too.
The European Commission have unveiled plans to revise the air passenger rights provided by EC261/2004 with some changes benefiting passengers and others limiting responsibilities of airlines.
The Commission are hoping that by gaining industry agreement, airlines will abide by the rules and passengers will not have to resort to court action to get compensation for delayed and cancelled flights. European Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas said:
"It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper. We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters most – when things go wrong.”
"We know that the real priority for stranded passengers is just to get home. So our focus is on information, care and effective rerouting.”
Changes in favour of airlines are:
- Airlines will have to pay for a maximum of three nights hotel accommodation where there is currently no limit. Airlines had to pay for up to a week following the Icelandic volcano eruption.
- An increase in the length of delay from three to five hours before compensation payments may be due. Airlines have been cancelling flights rather than attempting to fix problems or re-route passengers. It is hoped the extra time will reduce the number of cancellations.
- Compensation will not be payable for delays or cancellations caused by severe weather or strikes though they will still be obliged to provide care in the form of food, water and accommodation.
However passengers win because:
- Airlines will no longer be able to claim "exceptional circumstances” to deny compensation for mechanical problems with aircraft.
- Airlines will not be allowed to charge for correcting spelling mistakes of passenger names on tickets. Ryanair currently charge up to £160 to correct a name at the airport, EasyJet charge £40.
- Passengers will have increased rights when sitting on an aircraft stuck on the tarmac for more than an hour. Airlines will have to provide water, allow access to lavatories and turn the air-conditioning or heating on.
- Airlines will have to supply passengers with the reason for a flight cancellation within 30 minutes of it's scheduled departure.
Airlines have been complaining that they have become the insurer of last resort due to the current law and recent court ruling against them. Hopefully having had their complaints addressed, the carriers will adopt the spirit of the new legislation and they will volunteer the assistance they are obliged to give.
The new laws are due to come into force early 2015 subject to member state and European Parliament approval.
While air passenger rights are important, they should not be regarded as an acceptable substitute for travel insurance.