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AEA calls on European Parliament to take a realistic approach on Air Passenger Rights

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On Wednesday 5th February, the European Parliament will vote on a Committee report dealing with a revision to the existing EU legislation on Air Passenger Rights. AEA urges the Parliament to have a realistic approach, in particular related to delay compensation points, extraordinary circumstances and multi-sector flights.

The revision of the existing Passenger Rights legislation is badly needed.  The current rules, formulated ten years ago, have demonstrably failed to adequately address situations of extreme service disruption, such as the 2010 ash cloud, the Japanese nuclear disaster the following year and numerous political upheavals and extreme weather events.  While such cases are clearly outside the airlines’ control, nevertheless carriers face a virtually unlimited liability to look after stranded passengers.

The European Commission, in early 2013, produced a policy proposal which in the airlines’ view, struck a broad balance between safeguarding customers’ interests and recognising the realities of providing a scheduled service in a complex environment.  AEA calls on the European Parliament to endorse the Commission’s proposal, in particular with respect to three specific elements:

– Delay compensation ‘trigger points’.  Depending on the flight distances involved, it takes a greater or lesser amount of time to fix a problem and allow passengers to continue their journey.  It is entirely appropriate for long-distance flights and medium-haul services to have different trigger points to short European flights. The Commission’s proposal of 5, 9 and 12 hours recognises this.

– A list of Extraordinary Circumstances which is appropriate and flexible, rather than set in stone.  The legislation recognises that some events are outside the control of the airlines, who should not be held liable for disruptions arising from them.  Any list of such circumstances needs to reflect the realities of running a scheduled operation, and not restrict the airlines’ freedom to develop solutions to foreseen problems, such as widespread industrial action amongst air traffic controllers.

– A rational approach to passengers who fail to show up for the first part of a multi-sector journey.  EU air transport liberalisation guarantees an airline’s pricing freedom, not only in their home market but throughout the EU.  This has resulted in many consumer benefits, including bargain prices on journeys involving a connecting flight, with the appropriate conditions on how the tickets may be used.  If such restrictions were no longer allowed, it is inevitable that prices in some markets would rise and fair competition would be distorted.

European airlines operate in a highly competitive market and day after day do their utmost to offer passengers comfortable, safe and punctual travel solutions. AEA therefore urges the European Parliament to carefully weigh the impact of their decisions, on airlines and passengers alike, and looks forward to pursuing an effective, workable and balanced legislative package.

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