Varadkar kicks off debate on air passenger rights

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar will today launch formal discussions at EU level to strengthen the rights of airline passengers, at a meeting of the European Transport Council in Luxembourg.

The new measures, if accepted by EU Transport Ministers and the European Parliament, would make it easier for passengers to know and exercise their rights when their travel plans are disrupted.

“This is an important set of measures which would strengthen passengers’ rights in many areas, and provide clarity for travellers and airlines. The number one priority is to ensure that stranded passengers can return to their point of departure,” Minister Varadkar said.

“The eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull will always be remembered for the massive disruption it caused to air traffic across the EU. But it also focused minds at EU level to address the issue of passenger rights. I want to ensure that the debate starting today will lead to a revised Regulation that will meet the needs of passengers, while protecting the economic viability of airlines.”

The package of measures includes the following draft proposals:
Passengers will have the option of seeking reimbursement of the price of their flight in cases where a delay of more than five hours has occurred and the passenger decides to cancel their trip;
Passengers will be entitled to compensation for delays on the following basis:

  • For flights within the EU and to destinations of 3,500km or less, if the flight arrives at its destination more than five hours late;
  • For flights to destinations between 3,500km and 6,000km, if the flight arrives at its destination more than nine hours late;
  • For flights to destinations greater than 6,000km, if the flight arrives at its destination more than 12 hours late;
  • Airlines will have to inform passengers about delays, and explain why the flight is delayed, within half an hour of the scheduled take-off time;
  • Airlines won’t be able to charge for correcting a name if it has been misspelt – passengers have a right to have this correction made once up to 48 hours pre-departure;
  • Musicians will be able to bring smaller-sized instruments with them on to the aircraft provided these can be stowed safely;
  • Airlines will have to acknowledge passenger complaints within seven days.

The measures would provide more detailed definitions of when compensation will become applicable, i.e. in the case of mechanical failures, or natural disasters. Discussions on the measures will continue at EU level in both the Parliament and the Council of Ministers, and the final agreed Regulation is likely to be in place in 2014.