February 06, 2014
The European Parliament has passed draft legislation to revise passenger rights in another step towards new regulations on consumer compensation to be applied in the European Union (EU).
The draft law covers a wide range of air travel consumer aspects and has, as expected, met mixed reactions. A final version of the new EU regulation will have to be worked out as a compromise between the European Council, representing the member states, and the European Commission.
Among the most important and most disputed proposals is language concerning passenger compensation in the case of delays: the parliament has opted for €300 per passenger for flights of 2,500 km or less that are delayed by three hours or more, €400 for 2,500-6,000 km sectors that are delayed by more than five hours and €600 for flights of more than 6,000 km that are delayed by more than 7 hours.
Passenger compensation is one of the issues in which the European Commission disagrees—its own draft legislation foresees a five-hour minimum delay.
There are several other significant aspects in the draft regulation. The parliament wants to limit the airlines’ rights to restrict carry-on baggage and insists on passengers being allowed to carry a coat, one bag and one airport shopping bag, a proposal highly welcomed by the Airports Council International (ACI).
According to the draft law, passengers would also be guaranteed boarding of a return flight even if they did not take the outbound sector.
The parliament also specified what can be seen as exceptional circumstances, requiring no no compensation: Severe weather and air traffic control issues count, but maintenance issues do not.
“The downside for passengers is that mandatory compensation will continue to feed through to higher ticket prices,” KPMG’s global head of aviation James Stamp says. “The airline industry is highly competitive, and has thin margins, so these costs cannot be absorbed.”
Further, “the new regulations also do little to change national differences in how effectively compensation can be enforced,” Stamp says, “and still leaves significant room for dispute about who is responsible for any given delay.”