Blog

08
apr

Newsletter April 2013: Newsletter FLO – Aviation

Arthur Flieger, Attorney at law Flieger Law Office bvba with the cooperation of Stijn Brusseleers, Attorney at law Flieger Law office bvba

 

PASSENGERS RIGHTS: NEW MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN AIR PASSENGER RIGHTS, AN EVOLUTION CONTRARY TO AIR CARRIER’S INTERESTS!

On March 13th, 2013 the European Commission announced a package of measures to ensure that air passengers have new rights to information, care and re-routing when they are stranded at the airport. The complaint procedures and enforcement measures are more elaborate.

The European Commission’s proposal updates passengers rights in four key areas:
1. Clarifying Grey Areas: rights to information on delayed or cancelled flights; extraordinary circumstances; rights in relation to long delays and tarmac delays; contingency planning; rights to re-routing and rights on connecting flights.
2. New Rights: in the case of rescheduling; misspelt names, new rights with regard to mishandled baggage and transparency requirements for cabin and checked luggage.
3. Enforcement, Complaint-Procedures and Sanctioning: strengthening oversight of air carriers by national and European authorities (monitoring and joint investigations); as well as for complaint handling and enforcing individual rights (including a requirement on airlines to reply to complaints within two months); insolvency.
4. Disproportionate Financial Burden: limits to assistance; limits for regional operations; sharing the economic burden.

The EU’s Air Passenger Rights Regulation 261/2004 came into force in February 2005 establishing minimum levels of assistance and compensation for passengers who are denied boarding or affected by long delays or cancellations.

What are the main problems?
According to the European Commission the main problem for passengers is that, while they have very strong passenger rights defined under EU law, they can have difficulty claiming them and feel frustrated when air carriers do not appear to apply them. This applies to their rights defined under Regulation 261/2004, but also to their rights with regard to lost, damaged or delayed baggage as defined in the Montreal Convention and in Regulation 2027/97.

What does the Commission propose:

The 10 basis passenger rights

10 Basic rights (current situation) The new proposal
1. RIGHT TO NON-DISCRIMINATION IN ACCESS TO TRANSPORT
All passengers have equal access to transport and are in particular protected against discrimination based on nationality, residence or disability.
No change needed
2. RIGHT TO MOBILITY ACCESSIBILITY AND ASSISTANCE AT NO ADDITIONAL COST FOR DISABLED PASSENGERS AND PASSENGERS WITH REDUCED MOBILITY (PRM)
PRM have the right to be assisted at no additional cost when travelling by all modes of transport to allow them to enjoy the same possibilities to travel as other citizens.
° no limitations to the right to care for PRMs
° compensation to its full value of damaged or lost mobility equipment ( if checked-in)
3. RIGHT TO INFORMATION BEFORE PURCHASE AND AT THE VARIOUS STAGES OF TRAVEL, NOTABLY IN CASE OF DISRUPTION
Passengers have the right to be correctly informed of the ticket price, their rights and the circumstances of their journey in a timely and relevant manner before the journey as well as during and after the travel in case of disruption.
Better information of passengers about the occurrence and the nature of the disruption and about their rights. The carrier must inform the passengers of the situation as soon as possible and in any event no later than 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time, and of the estimated departure time as soon as this information is available.

Air carriers will also provide clear information about baggage allowances, both for cabin and checked baggage, at booking and at the airport.

4. RIGHT TO RENOUNCE TRAVELLING (REIMBURSEMENT) WHEN THE TRIP IS DISRUPTED
In the event of long delayed, cancelled travel or denied boarding, passengers have the right to the reimbursement of the full ticket price.
Right to renounce to travel clarified with respect to tarmac delays: after maximum 5 hours, the passenger has the right to renounce to the travel and have the ticket price reimbursed. In case of tarmac delays, this includes the right to disembark.
5. RIGHT TO THE FULFILMENT OF THE TRANSPORT CONTRACT (REROUTING OR REBOOKING) IN CASE OF DISRUPTION
In the event of long delayed, cancelled travel or denied boarding, passengers have the right to receive an alternative service of transport, as soon as possible, or to rebook at their best convenience. The choice must be offered by the carrier as soon as the disruption takes place, in a clear and uncontroversial way.
Reinforcement of the passenger’s triple choice between reimbursement, immediate rerouting or alternative flight at a later date. In particular with regard to re-routing: where the carrier cannot provide the rerouting on its own services within 12 hours, it must offer rerouting via alternative carriers or alternative transport modes where available.
6. RIGHT TO GET ASSISTANCE IN CASE OF LONG DELAY AT DEPARTURE OR AT CONNECTING POINTS
Stranded passengers have the right to be provided a minimum level of care immediately, on the spot at terminals/stations and/or on board while waiting for the beginning or the continuation of the delayed journey or for their rerouting.
° Clarification of the rights of passengers in case of                     missed connecting flights (for care/assistance)
° The right to care is prioritised. It is not anymore dependant on the flight distances but is always after 2 hours
° Right to care clarified in case of tarmac delay (where a tarmac delay exceeds one hour, the carrier must provide, free of charge, access to toilet facilities and drinking water, must ensure adequate heating or cooling of the passenger cabin, and must ensure that adequate medical attention is available when needed).
° Airports, air carriers and other airport users must prepare contingency plans to care for passengers stranded in mass disruptions (including in case of airline insolvency).

 

7. RIGHT TO COMPENSATION
Under certain conditions in case of long delayed or cancelled travel and always in case of denied boarding in air, passengers are entitled to a standardised financial compensation for the trouble suffered. Such compensation varies for each mode according to the time lost due to the disruption, the distance of the journey and/or the ticket price.
Right to compensation in case of long delays is confirmed by its integration into the text of the Regulation: the delay threshold is extended from three to five hours for all intra-EU flights and short international flights (to encourage carriers to operate and not cancel flights) The thresholds are 9 hours or 12 hours for the remaining international flights.

New right to compensation for rescheduled flights (when notified less than 2 weeks in advance)

Clarification of the right to compensation in case of missed connection flights: depending on the circumstances, the passenger may claim compensation from the operating carrier of the delayed flight.

Rights in case of denied boarding reinforced with the right to have spelling mistakes corrected and with a partial ban of the “no show” policy (no denied boarding on return flight just because outbound flight was not taken)

 

8. RIGHT TO CARRIER LIABILITY TOWARDS PASSENGERS AND THEIR LUGGAGE
Under International conventions and EU Law, carriers are liable for passengers and their luggage. In case of death, injury and baggage problems and in some cases of delay, passengers may be entitled to compensation to be determined according to the damage they suffered. Such compensation can be limited depending on the applicable law.
Strengthened enforcement for baggage rules and specific rules for mobility equipment and music instruments: National authorities will be responsible for the enforcement of compensation rules for mishandled baggage and the new rules on the transport of musical instruments make sure that their carriage is not refused on other grounds than safety or technical specificities of the aircraft.
9. RIGHT TO A QUICK AND ACCESSIBLE SYSTEM OF COMPLAINT HANDLING
Passengers have the right to lodge a complaint with the carrier if dissatisfied. In case of lack of answer after a certain time-limit, or dissatisfaction with the carriers’ answer, they have the right to lodge a complaint within the competent National Enforcement Body, which should treat it within a reasonable timeframe. Out of Court and Court procedures are also available under EU and national law (e.g. Alternative Dispute Resolution systems, national or European Small Claim Procedure at Court).
° Air carriers must provide efficient means to passengers to submit complaints. While passengers have to submit their claim within 3 months after the departure time, carriers must also reply within given deadlines (one week for the acknowledgment of receipt and two months for the formal reply).
° Passengers will be able to turn to out-of-court complaint handling bodies which will treat the complaints within reasonable times and which will act with the support of the national enforcement bodies.
10. RIGHT TO FULL APPLICATION AND EFFECTIVE ENFORCEMENT OF EU PASSENGER RIGHTS
Passengers have the right to count on a proper application by carriers and on an effective enforcement of EU rules from National Enforcement Bodies
° The proposal reinforces the coordination and exchange of information among the National Enforcement Bodies with the support of the Commission. The latter can also request the launch of (joint) investigations by the national authorities.

 

We will be at le Bourget Airshow from June 17th thru June 23rd 2013. Come and visit our stand.

 

For further information and comment, please contact Arthur Flieger at Flieger@fliegerlaw.com, Website: www.fliegerlaw.com, telephone: +32 3 238 77 66

 Copyright A. Flieger
This publication is defined to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is transmitted with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, or any other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, professional services should be sought. You can always contact A. Flieger at flieger@fliegerlaw.com.