Airline passengers still need to be careful: rights remain limited

24 July 2013

Airline passengers still need to be careful: rights remain limited

Every year during the summer holiday period complaints pour into consumer organisations from airline passengers who have experienced problems. The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) draws attention to two things which stand out amongst these complaints: it is common for the total costs of an airline journey to turn out far higher than expected, because airlines persist in not including all costs in the price shown on the ticket; and European Union laws to protect passengers don’t apply to flights from outside the European Union on a non-European airline. Commenting on these issues, SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong says that ‘both matters are things that I’ve often taken up with the European Commission, but in their latest legislative proposal I still can’t find any amendment to the regulation. Given the number of complaints, however, these are real problems and I intend shortly to present some proposed amendments to ensure that protection is improved.’

Dennis de JongAnyone taking a holiday outside the EU this summer would be well-advised to check which airline will be responsible for the return flight. If the company is non-European, then the EU rules for protection of passengers’ rights don’t apply. You will have for the most part less of a right to help or compensation should your flight be cancelled or delayed. The situation is moreover confusing, because often what are involved are bookings taken by a European company which are then passed on without the passengers being informed, the flight actually being carried out by a non-European partner. ‘When last year I received e-mails from people who as passengers had found themselves in this situation, I asked the Commission immediately how they were going to deal with the problem,’ says De Jong. ‘At the time the answer came back that the problems were known about and would be looked into when the legislation was revised. Yet in the proposal that appeared earlier this year there’s still nothing being done about it. I don’t find that acceptable, because the way things are passengers think they are protected, while as regards the return flight this isn’t the case.’

In addition, the rules which the Commission proposes for luggage guarantees are inadequate. Despite the European Parliament’s recommendation of an ‘all-in’ ticket price, the Commission has now suddenly decided that it would be best if passengers paid for their luggage separately. ‘With some airlines you have as things stand to pay separately for your luggage when you travel within the EU, but almost everyone has a case to check in. In the SP’s view every passenger must be able to check in one piece of hand luggage without their being any extra costs attached to this. Otherwise the ticket price is simply misleading.’

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