Brussels, 16 February 2005
The European Commission has adopted a plan aimed at strengthening the rights of passengers in all modes of public transport. It has also adopted two legislative proposals on air transport: the first guarantees people with reduced mobility the same access to this form of transport as any other passenger; the second aims to ensure that all passengers have the right to be informed in advance of the identity of their carrier. This overall plan complements the rights already established for air passengers which enter into force tomorrow 17 February (see IP/05/181) and the proposals already on the table at the Council and Parliament on the rights of international rail passengers. "Europe is strengthening citizens' rights. The Commission is proposing an important social measure which will enable the elderly and people with reduced mobility to travel in Europe under the best possible conditions", said Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for transport.
In its White Paper on European transport policy for 2010, the Commission undertook to place users at the heart of this policy. Better protection of passengers' rights should help to improve the image of public transport as compared with private car use and encourage healthy competition between operators in developing competitive and efficient European transport services.
The draft Regulation on the rights of person with reduced mobility in air transport prohibits operators from denying reservation or boarding to persons because of their disability or age. It also guarantees such persons the right to receive assistance free of charge in airports and on board aircraft. The Member States will be obliged to lay down penalties and set up independent bodies to deal with complaints. It is the airport managers which will have to provide the assistance, for which they will receive funding from the airlines.
The other draft Regulation adopted today aims to guarantee passengers the right to be informed of the identity of the air carrier with which they will travel and to give them the assurance that all information relating to the safety record of carriers is indeed communicated rapidly and effectively between States. An accident at Sharm-el-Sheikh in 2004 killed 148 people, most of them European tourists. Whatever the causes of that accident, some passengers did not know that they were to fly with Flash Airlines, and even less that this carrier had been temporarily banned from Swiss airports because of safety concerns.
The proposed Regulation complements existing safety measures which are strictly enforced, such as the harmonised system for the inspection of third country operators using European airports and the certification of aircraft by the European Aviation Safety Agency. Governments will have to take all necessary protective measures, including banning airlines, in the event of shortcomings.
The European Commission is also proposing to extend passenger rights to all modes of transport, including maritime and international coach transport, in order to guarantee that European are covered by specific rules which are valid throughout the Union. As regards rail transport, the Commission urges the European Parliament and the Member States to adopt as soon as possible the measures it proposed in March 2004.
Questions and Answers on
1. Are disabled people really discriminated in terms of access to flights?
The Commission has no exact and comparative data that could demonstrate the extent to which disabled people or people with reduced mobility are subject to discrimination. Many companies and airports already makegood efforts to make sure such discrimination does not occur.
However, evidence provided by the associations of persons with reduced mobility and national court cases clearly show that some disabled people can suffer from unfair treatment in terms of access to air transport. This is unacceptable. Today’s regulation foresees a high level of protection for all people in need of assistance when travelling.
The fact that a number of operators already have in place a system to accommodate people with reduced mobility also means that today’s proposal will not put a huge extra cost on the air transport sector.
Today’s regulation also foresees the creation of independent bodies to deal with complaints. This will give people with reduced mobility a chance to settle disputes out of court, in a speedy and non-costly manner. It will improve the protection of their rights vis-à-vis recalcitrant companies.
2. The case of the Flash Airlines on its way to Paris as explained in your press release was known to the Swiss authorities. So does the new regulation apply to Switzerland ?
Switzerland has a bilateral aviation agreement with the EU. Through this agreement, Switzerland applies all EU legislation regarding air transport. The regulation adopted today will also apply to Switzerland once the Swiss authorities have included it in the bilateral aviation agreement with the EU.
3. How does the regulation on the identity of the carrier improve the information flow between Member States? How come such information flow does not exist already?
The information flow exists already. Since 30 April 2004, Member States have already the obligation to exchange information on the safety record of third country operators that use EU airports. This obligation is contained in the directive 2004/36. The information on safety records is centralised at EU level. The Commission will make an annual report which will be available to the public.
The Commission can also propose to a committee of Member States that thet extend a prohibition for a company to land or take off that applies in one or more Member States to the whole of the EU territory. In addition, the recent creation of the European Air Safety Agency has marked a cornerstone in the uniform application of safety requirements to all aeronautical products.
Today’s regulation adds two elements to the above, namely the right of each passenger to know the identity of his/her operating carrier and the obligation for Member States to publish a list of all air carriers that are banned from its airspace or which are subject to traffic rights restrictions for safety reasons. Based on information from the Member States, the Commission will also publish a consolidated list of these operators. Today’s regulation increases safety through a transparency mechanism that involves the passenger.
4. What will happen in international bus and maritime transport ?
Experience shows that a multiplication of national rules is not the most effective way to protect the rights of international passengers. This is why the Commission is announcing today new measures to increase passenger rights in international bus and maritime transport. The Commission will study whether legislation or other measures would be the most effective way to better protect passengers on these form of transport, notably against cancellations, overbooking and delays. The Commission notes that some maritime companies already provide solutions on a voluntary basis. The Commission will also examine how to better protect the rights of passengers with reduced mobility in maritime and international bus transport.
5. Où en est la Commission avec les droits des passagers ferroviaires internationaux ?
En ce qui concerne les droits des voyageurs ferroviaires internationaux, la Commission a fait une proposition de règlement le 3 mars 2004, dont le texte peut être consulté à l’adresse suivante :
C’est maintenant au Conseil et au Parlement européen d’adopter cette proposition, qui prévoit, entre autres, des droits pour les passagers à mobilité réduite, une assistance pour tous les voyageurs en cas de retard ou d’annulation, ainsi que des indemnisations en cas de perte ou détérioration des bagages, en cas de correspondances manquées et annulations, et en cas de retards:
INDEMNISATION MINIMALE EN CAS DE RETARD
Chaque Etat membre devra désigner un organisme chargé de contrôler l’application de ce règlement. Il y aura la possibilité pour les voyageurs de porter plainte contre cet organisme pour infraction présumée du règlement.
 See list of bodies on