Brussels, 15 October 2003
New rights for air passengers: deal is done
Loyola de Palacio, European Commission vice-president in charge of transport and energy, welcomed the early morning agreement in the conciliation committee on the proposal of regulation to protect the rights of air passengers when facing denied boarding, cancellation of their flight or a long delay. "This is a big step ahead in our effort to put the citizens at the heart of EU policies” she said. “Too many times, air passengers are victims of practices which deserve that they receive a fair treatment and proper compensation: the today's agreement paves the way for completing and strengthening the existing rights” she added. The Council and European Parliament plenary session must definitively confirm the conciliation agreement. Loyola de Palacio concluded: “As we did in the past, the European Commission will ensure that the passengers are informed of their new rights and a proper information will be given in all airports”.
Roughly one quarter of a million air passengers each year get a bad surprise at EU airports when checking-in for their flight. They have bought a ticket and reserved a place. They are then told by the operator that their flight has been overbooked and they have to take a later one. Denied boarding causes passengers great inconvenience and loss of time. Equally bad surprises are cancellations without warning and delays that leave passengers stranded for hours at an airport.
The new regulation agreed early this morning by the European Parliament and the Council will replace the existing one dating from 1991. This has severe limitations as it does not effectively deter airlines from denying boarding or cover cancellations for commercial reasons or long delays. Nor does it apply to non-scheduled flights, chartered by tour operators.
This will change radically with the new regulation, which will give passengers effective, all-round protection once it comes into effect in around one years time. It introduces four important new rights.
Extend air passengers' rights to all kinds of flights.
Until now, were excluded non-scheduled flights, a large part of the market. The new regulation will cover both scheduled and non-scheduled flights (including air transport sold as part of a package holiday).
Also, the new regulation will apply not only to passengers departing from an airport located in a Member State but also, if the airline operating the flight is a Community carrier, to passengers flying from a third country to a Member State, unless they receive similar treatment in the third country.
Cut denied boarding.
The new regulation will dramatically reduce the frequency of denying boarding against a passenger's will, by a combination of two measures.
This will create a strong incentive to make volunteering attractive and a powerful deterrent to deny boarding.
In addition to financial compensation, passengers denied boarding will continue to enjoy these rights:
Minimise the inconvenience of cancellations.
When airlines or tour operators cancel flights on their own responsibility, passengers will have the right to compensation at the rate fixed for denied boarding, unless:
In addition, in case of cancellations, passengers will receive three other rights:
Assist passengers facing long delays.
When airlines reasonably expect a long delay, they will be obliged to give passengers:
Annex: figures on air passenger rights