The European Commission has given airlines and Member States six months to make the air passenger rights regulation work.The European Commission has presented a report which evaluates the results and the application of the air passenger rights Regulation]. Although some progress has been made since its introduction two years ago, further important steps should be taken to ensure that airlines apply the rules more consistently and that these rules are better enforced by Member States. This is the main finding of the study which the Commission ordered to complement its Communication on the results of the common rules protecting citizens’ rights when travelling by air.
“Although there is no doubt that air passengers enjoy better protection today, we must make sure that airlines and Member States fully comply with their obligations”, stressed Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot in charge of transport. “The Commission will give them six months to make the air passengers regulation work and will provide them with full support in that process”.
Although stranded passengers now have specific rights, they are still in a weaker position compared to airlines. For example, airlines often do not inform passengers about their rights when their flights are disrupted, although the Regulation obliges them to do so, since passengers need this information in order to claim their rights.
The Commission therefore considers that further work is needed in a number of areas: improving enforcement, clarifying the interpretation of certain aspects of the Regulation, establishing clarity between delays and cancellations as different rights are awarded to the passengers depending on the circumstances, and enhancing the role of the National Enforcement Bodies that oversee the application of the common rules.
During the next six months, the Commission will intensify cooperation with the National Enforcement Bodies and airlines in order to achieve better results. If the final outcome remains unsatisfactory, the Commission will initiate infringement procedures against Member States. Should these contacts and procedures fail to reach satisfactory results, the Commission could consider amending the current Regulation.
The Regulation introduced new rules on compensation and assistance for air passengers in the event of denied boarding, cancellations, long delays and involuntary downgrading. Depending on the circumstances, the Regulation requires airlines to provide passengers with assistance such as accommodation, refreshments, meals and communication facilities, offer re-routing and refunds, pay compensation, and proactively inform passengers about their rights under the Regulation.
The Commission has also prepared updated information material in order to better guide passengers concerning their rights. A new poster will be available at all airports before the Summer.