Commission sets out next steps to strengthen the enforcement of air passenger rights
European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas today announced a series of measures to clarify and strengthen the enforcement of passenger rights legislation, so consumers can more effectively access their rights and industry has more certainty and a level playing field across the EU. Vice-President Kallas also announced his intention to open a dialogue with stakeholders with a view to revising the EU's air passenger rights Regulation 261 – with a proposal from the Commission in 2012. The review would look to clarify, in particular, key issues such as limits for liability in case of extraordinary circumstances, compensation thresholds, effective re-routing of passengers, shared risk between operators in the supply chain and other issues where there are weaknesses, including protection in the case of mishandled luggage or re-scheduled flights.
European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said "Overall EU passenger rights legislation has been a huge step forwards, providing a 'safety net' for passengers, vastly reducing certain commercial practices and raising standards throughout the industry. But there is also after the first six years a wealth of experience gained and areas where we can improve. The next big push will be to step up enforcement – it is not enough to have rights on paper, they must be applied on the ground. Looking ahead there are issues we also need to revisit and for that we need a detailed analysis and a revision of the law. In particular we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the lessons learnt from what passengers and industry suffered during the 2010 ash crisis and snow. The work will start now to effectively plug loopholes, strengthen provisions where there are gaps, and clarify issues for passengers and industry where it is clear that after six years we need to adjust and fine tune."
The announcements today come as the Commission published its review of the first six years of the application of the air passenger rights Regulation 261, as well as the EU regulation on passengers with reduced mobility. The analysis is published in two communications on the application of the passenger rights regulations as well as a staff working document publishing data for the period 2007–09 on certain key trends, including number of flights affected by air passenger regulation (0.5%); patterns in the use of sanctions by Member State authorities and percentage of flights that may be affected by long delays.
In the short term, the Commission will take a series of measures to improve pan-European application of passenger rights, including:
- strengthening the mandate of the network of national enforcement bodies (NEBs) to adopt decisions on a common interpretation and enforcement of passenger rights issues as they arise;
- publishing NEB interpretive guidelines on the regulation on people with reduced mobility (Regulation 1107/2006);
- creating a new forum for feedback from consumer groups, NGOs and industry on all air passenger rights issues – including enforcement;
- stepping up information and awareness campaigns.
Looking ahead at the review of Regulation 261, the Commission will launch in 2011 an impact assessment and public consultation on issues to be potentially in the future revision, including a range of issues from clarification on liability in the case of extraordinary circumstances, proportionality of compensation, and effective re-routing, to other issues such as rights with regard to lost luggage and rescheduling of flights, where more work needs to be done.
In parallel, and to strengthen and ensure coherent enforcement of passenger rights across all modes, the Commission will, already this year, bring forward a communication clarifying key concepts so they apply in the same way across all modes – rail, air, maritime, bus and coach – e.g. re-routing between modes.