easyJet has an excellent commitment to customer service - that`s why we have one of the most generous refund policies of any airline anywhere in the world. However, we are concerned at the profound implications of proposed legislation, which is currently going through the European Parliament.
Brussels intends to pass a law that will force airlines to compensate passengers in the event of cancellations - no matter what the cause. This implies that if flights were cancelled due to a strike by French air traffic controllers, or if an airport runway were closed for essential repairs, then it would be the responsibility of the airlines to pay compensation. This is absurd. And is probably the very last thing the airline industry needs at this point after one of the most difficult years in its history.
And what would the compensation be? Not anything related to the price of the ticket! Brussels is proposing that compensation should be determined by distance, not the ticket price. This means that a fat cat traveling business class on British Airways for £500 would be given the same compensation for a European flight as someone who had paid £10 on easyJet. This is simply wrong. Any compensation must be related to the cost of the ticket.
Moreover, this law is only being applied to airlines - not to high-speed rail, coach companies, ferry travel or the plethora of other forms of transport that compete with air travel. This is not protecting the consumer; this is attacking the airline industry.
The rationale behind the legislation is fundamentally misguided. Brussels is concerned that some traditional, high-cost airlines overbook flights leaving passengers stranded at the airport. Some airlines are also rumoured to `commercially cancel` flights because they do not have enough passengers on board. easyJet agrees that these practices are odious and should be stamped out. What is proposed, however, goes way beyond what was originally intended and threatens the very existence of large sections of the aviation industry. So the very first thing Brussels should be doing is calling for a thorough economic impact assessment across all areas of society so it knows what it is inflicting upon us all.
easyJet advocates a position where all airlines have to publish statistics relating to punctuality, cancellations, denied boardings etc. Such league tables would then give the consumer all the information they would need to make an informed choice - what service they want to buy and at what cost. This would ensure that it is consumers who decide which airlines succeed or fail - not bureaucrats.
If Brussels really wants to reduce cancellations and delays they should spend time looking at the real cause of the problem - the inefficiency of the European air traffic control system.