easyJet welcomes the AUC’s annual report and its continued good work throughout the year. The AUC plays a vitally important role in representing the interests of airline passengers.
This year’s annual report rightly focuses on the increased number of complaints and enquiries following the introduction in February 2005 of new EU legislation that gives passengers greater rights in the event of flight cancellations, delays and over-booking. easyJet has always complied with this legislation and it has always been easyJet’s policy not to overbook and we have always tried to avoid delays and cancellations wherever possible, as this is an essential part of our business model.
This legislation, while having its heart in the right place, is one of the worst pieces of legislation ever to emerge from Brussels, has led to some paradox outcomes and has caused the jump in complaints to the AUC this year. There are three principle reasons:
Firstly, the AUC has previously mentioned how the new rules have raised consumer expectations to unrealistic levels and how airlines’ relationships with their passengers have deteriorated despite airlines doing more for their passengers (paying assistance, hotels and transfers and refunds in events when airlines are clearly not at fault, such as bad weather, ATC strikes and government events) - yet this element is curiously lacking from the AUC’s announcement.
Secondly, the way the legislation was communicated by the Commission, MEPs and the media has led air travellers to believe that they are entitled to additional compensation in circumstances when they are not.
Thirdly, the legislation makes airlines financially responsible for delays that are wholly beyond their control. While airlines are only one part of a long, complex supply chain, they are the only ones held accountable under the legislation simply because airlines directly face the consumer. Airlines face the grief and the AUC report is a clear proof of this. Here are some examples where airlines have been forced to provide expensive hotel accommodation, transfers, refreshments, etc for events over which we have no control and no means of regress from the party that caused the disruption.
Just to give a few examples:
á Every time that Air Traffic Controllers in Europe choose to strike, Europe’s airlines are forced to cancel hundreds of flights and pay assistance, hotel accommodation and transfers. Paradoxically, the legislation seems to encourage strikes as they know that the airlines have to take care of passengers and foot the huge bill - and face the anger and frustration.
á easyJet has incurred a bill that could run to €100,000 for ten flights that were cancelled by German Air Traffic Control in and out of Berlin on the evening of the World Cup final as ATC decided to give priority to the arrival of sponsors and fat-cats on corporate jets.
á easyJet and other airlines were forced to cancel a number of flights due to the decision to close one of Rome’s commercial airports for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, leaving easyJet with a huge bill for assistance, transfers and the consequences of knock-on effects on other flights.
á Airlines in Germany were forced to cancel hundreds of flights in February 2005 when the arrival of George Bush effectively closed airspace over large parts of Germany.
The AUC has chosen the right subject for this year’s annual report but easyJet regrets that it has chosen to only communicate half the story.