Brussels, 23 June 2000
Telling air passengers their rights
Passengers already enjoy important rights under Community law, although they often do not know them and so do not insist on their being respected. For that reason, the Commission decided to launch a campaign to make passengers aware of the rights that the European Community has created for them, beginning with the display of a charter in airports throughout the Community. This campaign will be launched at officially on 23rd June in Rome, after the annual conference of Airports Council International (A.C.I. - Europe). "It is one thing to create these rights, another to make people really aware of them" said Loyola de Palacio. "That is why the Commission is publishing a Charter on passenger rights for display in EU airports and later, I hope, in the offices of airlines and travel agents. This charter will allow passengers to better understand their rights and to exercise them more effectively."
Even with increasing levels of competition in the air transport market, the quality of service is lower than many people believe it should be. Although prices have become more attractive, passengers' dissatisfaction with the level of service is growing.
This is despite the body of legislation that the European Union has adopted to protect the interests of air passengers. Part of the problem is that passengers do not know their rights and so cannot insist that airlines respect them. A poster publicity campaign will enable passengers to have a much better understanding of their rights; under what conditions they can complain; who they can complain to, and whether there is a good chance of obtaining reasonable compensation for inconvenience or for time, money or possessions lost. The Charter (see attached), on which the poster is based, sets out passengers' rights in four main areas:
i) information about flights and reservations : a passenger is entitled to neutral and precise information on the different flights available when making enquiries or booking through a travel agent in the European Union, and whether the ticket is booked by means of a travel agent or directly through an airline he or she must receive full information about the service.
ii) overbooking : if, at an EU airport, an airline prevents a passenger from boarding because it has overbooked the flight, it must offer the following :
iii) compensation in case of an accident : passengers travelling with an EU airline, or their relatives, have the right to full compensation for death or injury (there is no upper limit to the airline's liability). They also have the right to up-front payments if needed to help with immediate economic hardship.
iv) air travel as part of a package holiday : air passengers travelling as part of a package holiday or tour must receive precise information from the organisers about their trip. The consumer has the right to transfer his or her booking to another person. The organiser is responsible for any failure to meet the terms of the contract, so problems with the flight element of a tour or holiday should generally be taken up directly with the organiser. He will act on the passenger's behalf in dealings with the airline.
As for enforcement, these rights are laid down by law, so that airlines, travel agents and tour operators must observe them :
While the purpose of this campaign is to make passengers aware of their existing rights, the Commission is convinced that it is necessary to go further in protecting passengers' interests. It therefore presented on June 21st a proposal to complete these existing rights with new legal and voluntary commitments by airlines and airports to improving service quality, better treatment of delayed passengers, mechanisms for handling and settling complaints and also consumer reports comparing the performance of different airlines. This will form the basis of an overall European policy to protect passengers' interests in all key areas.
Information to all TVs: The European Commission produced a video on the Charter of Air Passengers right which is available by calling the European Commission Audiovisual Service Planning 2952123.
The European Union has created rights for air passengers and is working to reinforce them.
Here are the main rights that you now enjoy.
I. Information about flights and reservation
When making enquiries about or booking a flight through a travel agent in the European Union, each passenger has the right to neutral and accurate information:
European Union rules require that passengers must receive fair treatment and proper compensation when they are denied boarding at a European Union airport:
A passenger has a valid ticket indicating a confirmed reservation and arrives within the time limit for check-in at an airport in the European Union. If the airline then prevents the passenger from boarding because it has overbooked the flight, the following rules apply.
A passenger should not have to apply to the airline for the compensation and assistance mentioned above the airline should offer them as a matter of course.
III. Compensation in case of an accident
Passengers travelling with an European Union airline will receive full compensation in the case of an accident regardless of where it happens, and also up-front payments if needed to help with immediate economic hardship.
IV. Air travel as part of a package holiday
Air passengers travelling as part of a package tour or holiday bought in the European Union must receive precise information from the organiser about their trip. They also enjoy clear rights concerning the performance of the contract.
V. Other rights
Air transport is subject to a contract that creates certain rights for passengers. Ask the airline or your travel agency for a copy.
Under international agreements an airline is liable for damage caused by delay, except if it proves that it did all it reasonably could to avoid the damage or that is was impossible to do so. It is also liable for loss or damage to baggage. Ask for information from your airline or travel agency.
Enforcing passenger rights
The passenger rights above are laid down either directly by EU law or by national laws that implement EU Directives. So, airlines, travel agents, tour operators and all other businesses involved in the provision of air transport must observe them.