EU holidaymakers travelling by plane or train are protected by a whole range of consumer rights. Bus and boat passengers are set to be given the same levels of protection soon.
Four out of five Europeans are planning to go on holiday this year, according to the pollsters. Whether they travel by plane, train, bus or boat, they can look forward to their trip without too much worry about flight delays or cancelled trains - thanks to the rights they enjoy as passengers
Airline passengers have been well protected for some time now on their flights out and back home. If their flight is delayed by 2 hours or more, passengers are entitled to free food and drinks. If the delay is 5 hours or more, or if the flight is cancelled, passengers can opt for a refund on the price of their ticket within 7 days, a return flight to their starting point or alternative transportation to their destination. If a flight is postponed until the next day, passengers are entitled to a night in a hotel.
Many people took advantage of these rights in April when the gigantic ashcloud from an Icelandic volcano closed down European air space for a week or so and left 10 million people stranded.
Rail passengers now enjoy similar rights to air travellers - since the introduction of new EU rules last year. Before, during and after their journey, travellers are entitled to full information about the cheapest tickets, fastest routes, best connections and access to trains and stations. For delays of 1-2 hours, they can claim a 25% refund on their ticket - and a 50% refund for delays of 2 hours or more.
Air and rail passengers must be compensated for lost or damaged baggage - up to €1,220 for air travellers and €1,300 for rail passengers.
Bus and boat passengers will soon be given stronger protection too, so that they enjoy the same rights as rail and air passengers. From 2012, boat passengers will be entitled to compensation for delays of 90 minutes or more. Discussions on bus-passenger rights have yet to be finalised.
Trains and planes must already be accessible for people with reduced mobility. In future, access to buses and boat services must also be a right - so that everyone can enjoy a hassle-free holiday.