US Passenger Rights Law puts Europes to shame

4th Jun 2010
US Passenger Rights Law puts Europes to shame

The USA Department of Transport has published proposals to increase protection for its air passengers.  These proposed rules do not include any of the disproportionate and unbalanced standards that have been imposed on Europe’s airlines since 2005.

As just one example, by requiring airlines to pay for accommodation for passengers when flights are disrupted due to circumstances beyond their control, as happened recently with the volcanic ash crisis.  Mike Ambrose, Director General ERA, asks: “how can two major law-makers, seeking to protect their air passengers when things go wrong, as sometimes happens, arrive at such different conclusions as to what is needed?

“As the European Commission re-examines its passenger rights’ legislation, I call upon it, and all Members of the European Parliament, to consider whether the high costs imposed on Europe’s airlines are truly in the interests of passengers.  Europe’s transport ministers and Parliament have already rejected providing these gold-plated standards for train, coach and ferry customers.  Without even a basic evaluation of the costs and benefits, how can Europe’s regulators arrive at such different conclusions from their counterparts in the USA, who are obliged by law to publish the full financial impacts of their proposals?”

The difference between European and United States rules regarding passenger compensation is remarkable.  In Europe, compensation must be paid, rightly, to the very small number of passengers who are involuntarily denied boarding, or “bumped” from their flight.  However, it must also sometimes be paid to all passengers on a flight that is cancelled for safety reasons.  Such compensation is set at fixed amounts which are approximately four times the average fare paid on ERA member airlines.  In the US, compensation is limited to twice the fare paid and is only available to passengers who have been “bumped” from their flight.  Consequently, it is paid to less than one passenger in ten thousand, whereas in Europe one in a hundred passengers may be entitled to this compensation.

It is therefore quite common for Europe’s airlines to face bills that are 200 times the levels of their US counterparts.


Ambrose says: “Everyone can support rational measures to protect consumers.  Unfortunately in Europe we have developed a culture of gross over-protection that unnecessarily increases fares for all air passengers.”


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