New Euro rules give more rights to air passengers

The European Commission is set to introduce new rules that will give more rights to air passengers.

The Commission has laid down new rules that make European airlines more liable for a range of customer services issues, including long terminal delays, runway delays and lost baggage. Scheduled for implementation by 2015, the new rules will put the onus on air carriers to reroute passengers with a competitor airline if they have been delayed for more than 12 hours and no alternative aircraft can be located.

Delays on board the aircraft due to congested runways are also addressed, with a ruling that when such delays last an hour, the airline has a responsibility to provide toilet facilities, drinking water and air conditioning, and if the delay extends to five hours, passengers must be allowed off the aircraft.

Other amendments that address issues that have long been a bugbear to passengers include the right to use the return part of round-trip ticket without having used the outbound; where a name is incorrectly spelled on a ticket it must be amended free of charge; and an explanation for any delay must be issued no later than 30 minutes after the aircraft’s scheduled takeoff time.

Financial compensation becomes due to passengers on EU or international flights shorter than 3,500km when they are delayed by more than 5 hours; on flights of 6,000km that are delayed for 9 hours; and for flights of a longer duration that are delayed by 12 hours.

However, airlines only have to pay for a maximum of three nights hotel accommodation for extended delays, and with regards to complaints, they have a week to acknowledge receipt and a maximum of two months to provide a formal reply.

Siim Kallas, EU transport commissioner, was quoted in the Daily Mail, saying, ‘It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper. We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters most – when things go wrong. We know that the real priority for stranded passengers is just to get home. So our focus is on information, care and effective rerouting.’

The proposals will be subject to approval by EU member states.