Written by Maria Juul
Over recent decades, the liberalisation of air transport in the EU has brought notable benefits to air passengers, including some lower air fares and a wider choice of airlines and services. At the same time, however, increased numbers of passengers and planes travelling through bigger and more crowded airports, and fragmented air space, increase the risk of problems such as flight delays and cancellations, and lost luggage.
The EU has adopted several regulations on air passenger rights, which complement the relevant international conventions and recommendations, to deal with such problems. However, not all passengers are aware of, or insist on, enforcement of their rights. For their part, airlines claim to struggle with financial costs and legal uncertainty. Grey areas, gaps in the current legislation and inconsistent implementation have led to numerous cases on passenger rights coming before the Court of Justice of the EU.
In 2013, to address these shortcomings and the Court’s decisions, the European Commission proposed to modify the existing air passenger rights regulations. Among other provisions, it specified in greater detail certain air passenger rights, clarified key definitions, and modified certain time thresholds for compensation measures, as well as limiting the obligation for airlines to provide assistance in case of long delays.
The outgoing Parliament adopted its first-reading position on the proposal in February 2014. It introduced certain new elements and rejected some provisions that, in Parliament’s view, weakened air passenger rights. Although the Council has made some progress on the file, it has not agreed on a general approach for negotiations with the Parliament. Stakeholders generally welcomed the clarifications in the Commission proposal and the EP’s position, although they do not support all the modifications.