Air passenger rights conference!
I believe that the below summary of our first air passenger rights conference may be of interest to the public and look forward to receiving questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- EUDELAY decided to organize this conference so major claim companies, consumers and legislators could meet over a discussion on the current and future air passenger rights. The conference was opened and closed by Jakub Kotan from EUDELAY and the key speakers were Mr Pavel Telicka, MEP (Vice-Chair of Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and member of Transport and Tourism Committee), Mr Coby Benson, solicitor at Bott&Co and Mr James Walker, Resolver (closely working with Moneysavingexpert)
- Introduction to the problem:
- EC Regulation 261/2004 gives air passengers right to compensation from airlines when their flights are delayed, cancelled, re-routed or in case of denied boarding. The compensation amount is set in the regulation and depends on the flight distances. Flights shorter than 1500km carry compensation right amounting to €250, flights between 1500km and 3500km and intra-community flights pay €400 and flight disruptions on distances greater than 3500km should amount to €600 per passenger.
- Disruptions caused by elements outside airlines’ control are called ‘extraordinary circumstances’. These may be bad weather, industrial actions, airspace restrictions and so on. Airlines are not required to pay compensations when delays are caused by extraordinary circumstances. However, when a flight disruption is caused by an airline itself then the above monetary compensation shall become payable to the suffering passengers. Courts in different member states (eg. Huzar v Jet2 in the UK) and the European Court of Justice have clarified the term ‘extraordinary circumstances’. Airlines should no longer excuse themselves from compensation payments because they had for example an unexpected technical fault or their crew went over their working hours. The list of excuses used can go on almost indefinitely. Nevertheless, various courts have now interpreted the Regulation and many airlines have started paying out. The word ‘many’ should however be taken with a pinch of salt. We experience innovative arguments almost every day. I will use just two examples for now: Recently, some airlines started restricting passengers from claim by modifying their term and conditions of carriage, and by saying that technical faults are in fact manufacturer’s faults and therefore nothing to with the airlines. Despite this argument, we have the existing Regulation and its court interpretation which brought some clarity to air passengers. The EU has been working on an amendment to this legislation and I fear that its implementation can push air passengers rights back to square one.
- Panel discussion:
- Claim companies such as EUDELAY and Bott&Co resolve as many as 35 per cent of claim in court hearings, with 98% success rate. These figures show that over one third of the flying industry is still determined to fight passenger rights all the way. Still, I can see this as an improvement because we are actually getting positive results and money for suffering travelers. The courts have clearly been on the consumer side and the trend seems continue.
- The relative positivity and improvement in passenger rights may be due to change in the not too distant future. The European Council now has an amendment to the Regulation 261 on its desk that could turn the existing law on its head. The amendment includes:
- Extending the minimum delay to 5 hours, 7 hours on medium distances and so on.
- Passengers may have limited time to 3 months from the delay to submit their compensation claims. Considering that only under 10% of European citizens know about their passenger rights, then the remaining 90% will most likely have no time to learn about these before they loose them. To compare this with the current state of affairs, time limits for bringing claims are currently governed by locals in individual Member states (eg. 6 years in the UK).
- There may be an exhaustive list of eventualities that are considered extraordinary. Predictably, this will lead to an endless court decisions and new interpretations as to what actually is in control of airline operations and what may be not.
- Passengers’ future:
- Mr Telicka admitted that the amendment is under an immense pressure of airline lobby groups. And he stated that the future of air passenger rights really depends on politians’ ability to resist this pressure. Honest view but not really comforting.
- Mr Telicka believes that maintaining the current status of air passenger rights shall eventually include other modes of transport and ultimately entire unification of rights of a traveler no matter whether traveing on a train, bus or an aircraft. Soon, we will be buying single tickets combining a number of modes of transport together, therefore the EU should be ready for this alternative. Visionary and appreciated indeed.
- Mr Telicka, as a member of the transport committee, stated that he is in favour of maintaining air passenger rights to the level they are now, rather than reducing them as the amendment of the EC Regulation 261 suggests.
- In my opinion (shared with Coby Benson), no amendment to the existing regulation is needed. In fact, it will be detrimental no matter what this amendment brings. We have had the Regulation 261 since 2004 and have only now achieved some sustainable clarity on interpretation that have gradually improved the rights of air travelers. This clarity was actually delivered by numerous court decisions that are now more or less obeyed. No matter what the Regulation 261 no.2 contains, its implementation will erase the entire history of court efforts and air passengers will kiss good-by to compensation payments as we have known them for the past ten years.
- And finally, all attending claim companies and law firms including EUDELAY, Bott&Co, EUclaim, Flightright and Refund.me met in a workshop and established a unified approach in defending air passenger interests. We hope to be heard significantly more in the next few months as the EU will be discussing the amendment to the Regulation 261.
Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any further questions.
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