European Parliament tackles airlines which evade the rules

28 March 2012

European Parliament tackles airlines which evade the rules

The SP’s team in the European Parliament has described the report on the rights of airline passengers as ‘an important step forward’. In the report, due to be adopted by the EP tomorrow, member states are called upon to act more vigorously against airlines which are careless of consumer protection, while the European Commission must act against member states which remain negligent. SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong: ‘Because passengers often don’t know what rights they have, airlines get away with a great deal. That’s why the rules on information and consumers’ rights are being tightened up. When you’re flying you need to know that there’s a right to a refund in the event of delays of more than three hours and that the price advertised has to be the actual price of a ticket. In addition there is as things stand a lack of clarity as to when airlines can claim force majeure or an “Act of God”. I would also expect enforcement of one’s rights to be made rather easier.’

The report is not only good for the consumer, it will also strengthen the hand of those airlines which do follow the existing rules. The European Parliament has, for instance, adopted the SP’s proposal that in case of delays or cancellations caused by circumstances beyond the airline’s control, the exceptional waiving of the right to reimbursement will apply also to the return journey of the same aircraft. ‘This was a justified wish on the part of a number of airlines including Dutch national carrier KLM,’ explains De Jong. ‘If a flight from Amsterdam to Jakarta is delayed, the delay automatically works through to the return flight on the same plane. I think it’s reasonable that the airline should in such cases be able to cite the same force majeure event or “Act of God” as grounds for exception.’ In addition, honest airlines will have the advantage that member states that turn a blind eye to cut-price competitors who break the rules will be tackled.

In the report numerous concrete proposals have been adopted which will be of help to travellers, including an amendment from the SP to the effect that airlines must provide a contact person at every airport into or out of which they fly, and a proper telephone service for clients at no more than the cost of a local call. ‘Cut-price airlines especially charge a euro a minute for telephone information services in order to put passengers off asking for information,’ says De Jong. ‘Fortunately, the European Parliament wants to see an end put to this.’

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