Protection of air passengers
Following this Communication, the Commission launched a campaign to inform air passengers of their rights under Community legislation. The Commission presents its legislative strategy, which aims to give more protection to the interests of air passengers. At the same time, it will seek to obtain voluntary commitments from airlines and compare their performance. It will also aim to achieve better representation for the interests of air passengers.
Commission Communication of 21 June 2000 to the European Parliament and to the Council regarding the protection of air passengers in the European Union [COM(2000) 365 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
This Communication is based on the results of a consultative document launched by the Commission. This document, which was addressed to organisations representing airlines, passengers and airports, concerned the problems encountered by air passengers and possible solutions.
Air passengers and their protection
Growth of air transport, stimulated by the development of the single market, is giving rise to much dissatisfaction today in terms of the quality of service provided by airlines. In spite of numerous measures already taken at Community level (compensation for denied boarding, liability in case of accidents, a code of conduct for computerised reservation systems and package travel), it appears that passengers have little knowledge of their rights. This has led the Commission to launch an awareness campaign through the display of a "charter of passenger's rights" in European airports (available in all languages as a PDF document available for download on the website of DG Energy and Transport).
The policy proposed in this Communication combines both Community law, through various legislative acts, and voluntary commitments by the air transport sector. The Commission is counting on the cooperation of the airlines and airports to allow looser European legislation, preferring solutions negotiated on a voluntary basis. There is a need to avoid overregulation so as not to lessen the scope for competition or hamper cooperation between airlines.
The Commission points out that future legislation will seek a balance between legal certainty for passengers and for airlines, while guaranteeing more rights for passengers. They must be able to obtain accurate and up-to-date information on airlines' performance so that they can make informed choices. Moreover, the difficulty of settling disputes must be addressed. The handling of complaints is often disappointing. Besides, representation of passenger interests is often weak when compared with very influential airlines.
The Commission is proposing to base its action on both legislation and voluntary commitments. The legislation to be proposed will have three objectives:
- enable delayed passengers to continue their journeys under good conditions, by giving them the right either to reimbursement of the ticket or to an alternative flight at the earliest opportunity;
- create new rights for passengers, by setting minimum requirements for air travel contracts. The aim would be to create certainty for passengers by requiring the airlines to draft contracts clearly setting out the services offered and the conditions applied. The Commission also wishes to improve the balance of contracts in favour of passengers;
- give passengers the information they need to make well-founded choices between airlines. The Commission is proposing, on the basis of data submitted by the airlines, to publish regular reports for consumers.
The voluntary commitments concern:
- improvement of service quality (lower fares, better information, easier complaints procedures);
- care for delayed passengers;
- simpler procedures for lodging complaints and mechanisms for settling disputes out of court.
The Commission is also proposing to involve airports in this attempt to improve service to passengers.
Commission work programme
In 2000, the Commission set out the following tasks:
- discuss how best to strengthen the representation of passengers with Member States and passengers' organisations.
- examine the effects of Internet sales and reservations on the market and competition rules.
- study the effects on competition of code sharing and of tariff coordination in interlining.
- assess the impact of cabin conditions on passengers' health.