Carriers say the rules lead to higher fares and have broadly welcomed transport commission proposals to qualify the compensation requirements.
However, Noura Rouissi, advisor on passenger rights to the European transport commission, told the Iata World Passenger Symposium in Dublin: “The proposal is being discussed by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers and already 500-600 amendments are proposed. It shows how difficult this is.”
Rouissi highlighted proposals broadly welcomed by airlines. The revised regulation would include a new definition of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ in which airlines could cancel flights without paying compensation.
The commission also proposes limiting airlines’ liability towards passengers in the event of serious delay to three days.
Rouissi said: “We learned from the volcanic ash. Under the current regulation there is no limit to airlines’ liability.”
The Commission also proposes extending the period before a passenger becomes entitled to compensation for a delay. This currently kicks in at three hours following the European Court of Justice ruling.
Rouissi said: “We propose to increase it to five, nine or 12 hours according to the length of flight.” She said: “We want to clarify this and not leave it to the court to interpret.”
Ireland’s permanent representative to the EU, Michael Harper, told the symposium: “We need to avoid the creation of perverse incentives where airlines cancel flights to avoid delays.”
Ryanair has repeatedly slammed the EC regulations for not linking compensation rules to the cost of fares, and Harper said: “There is a case for looking more closely at compensation related to ticket prices.”
Lufthansa director of EU affairs Regula Dettling-Ott said: “We see more and more small claims [for compensation] and more and more companies pursuing claims. It is a business model for certain law firms.”
Sourced from Travel Weekly
Proposed new rules on pilots’ working hours could lead to air crews flying while “dangerously fatigued”, union officials have warned ahead of a key vote by MEPs.
On Monday afternoon, members of the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee will vote on proposals to establish common flight and duty-time limitations across Europe. Their decision is the most significant stage in the process towards the new rules becoming law, but they would have to be approved by the European Commission and could be subject to legal challenges.
Besides the actual length of a flight, the regulations take into account the amount and quality of rest since the previous duty and the “circadian component” or jet lag.
British pilots could face longer turns of duty, with fewer flight crew on some long-haul flights. For example, BA and Virgin currently roster three pilots to fly from Heathrow to Los Angeles. Under the new rules, there could be just two. The European Cockpit Association, which represents 38,000 pilots, said some of the proposals constituted “an outright risk to flight safety”. Its president, Nico Voorbach, said: “The new rules will only worsen the situation of air crews flying while dangerously fatigued.”
The association claimed pilots could be rostered for eight hours on standby then work on a 14-hour flight, meaning they would be landing after 22 hours on duty. It is claimed this level of tiredness equates to being four times over the blood-alcohol limit for flying.
Mr Voorbach added: “Air crews will be asked to fly over 12 hours throughout the night, whilst scientists warn that safety risks increase significantly after 10 hours at night.”
Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), said: “A European regulator that lacks scientific and medical expertise is being allowed to tear up UK flight safety rules.”
But the European Regions Airline Association (ERA), which includes BMI Regional and Cityjet, accused the unions of using “misinformation” in a bid to scupper the proposals.
Simon McNamara, ERA’s director general, said: “Social and political considerations, which are being led by flight and cabin unions, and not safety issues, are aimed at persuading MEPs to vote against the motion.”
The Association of European Airlines (AEA), which includes British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, insisted the new rules would benefit customers, and were essential for an “environmentally sustainable, safe and cost- efficient aviation market”. AEA’s Athar Husain Khan said the new rules would ensure Europe would continue to have one of the strictest rules in the world, “even stricter than today”.
Sourced by The Independent
The EU ran into strong opposition from countries including the US, Brazil, China, India and Russia after last year bringing foreign as well as European airlines within its carbon emissions trading scheme.
A provisional deal at the governing council of the United Nations’ aviation body on Wednesday was seen as a diplomatic breakthrough after more than year of tensions between the EU and critics of the scheme.
China has suspended billions of dollars’ of purchases of Airbus aircraft from Europe over the row and airlines have warned of chaos caused by other possible retaliatory measures, such as restrictions on foreign airspace.
But the airline industry sounded an upbeat note after the draft deal, while experts warned key details must still be hashed out at a full assembly of Montreal-based ICAO later this month.
Under the draft compromise, international flights would be covered to the extent they use European airspace.
For a flight from London to New York an airline would have to declare its emissions inside European airspace. Once the aircraft left EU airspace to cross the Atlantic, its emissions would no longer be counted.
An IATA spokesman told Reuters: “We are optimistic that the Assembly will make progress, provided they keep focused on achieving an agreement on a global scheme.”
The new compromise would require countries to make a decision on finding a “market-based mechanism” for reducing airline emissions by 2016.
But environmental groups are likely to oppose the agreement, which falls short of the EU’s original objectives.
Sourced from Travel Weekly
Revealed: Legal ‘loophole’ airlines use to refuse flight delay compensation that won’t stand up in courtPosted: September 5, 2013
By Adam Uren
Thousands of passengers may have been denied compensation for flight delays by airlines that have been using a legal argument that would not stand up in court, This is Money can reveal.
Courts in England and Wales will allow compensation to be paid out for flight delays dating back six years (five in Scotland), but some airlines have been telling customers that under the Montreal Convention it will only consider claims for delays that happened within the last TWO years.
As a result, some passengers will have been fobbed off when entitled to compensation for avoidable flight delays that occurred more than two years ago, and are unaware that they would be likely to win in court.
In July, a court rejected an attempt by package holiday provider Thomson to limit compensation to those who have been delayed in flights within the last two years.
And flight delay solicitors Bott & Co claims this could open the floodgates for hundreds of thousands of passengers who have been delayed in the past two to six years to claim compensation, some of whom may have been told their claim was out of date.
Peterborough-resident James Dawson, 40, brought the claim before court last December, almost six years after he and his then girlfriend Sarah, now his wife, were delayed by eight hours on their flight to the Dominican Republic from Gatwick on Christmas Day, 2006.
Airlines based in, or taking off from, an EU country are liable to pay compensation of up to €600 if a flight has been delayed by more than three hours.
They can turn down compensation in the event of delays caused by extraordinary circumstances – such as extreme weather, industrial strikes, and unexpected technical faults – but must show they have made all reasonable efforts to get the plane away on time.
In Mr Dawson’s case, it emerged that the flight was delayed because there was insufficient crew to man the flight, which ordinarily would not be grounds for ‘extraordinary circumstances’ as airlines are expected to have contingency crew available.
Instead, when the case came to court, Thomson based its defence on the Montreal Convention. This is a treaty among countries that commits airlines in signatory states to provide compensation in instances where passengers, cargo or baggage are harmed or lost.
However, this was rejected by the district judge at Cambridge County Court, who agreed that compensation should be permitted if a claim is made within six years of the delay.
Passengers who had suffered delays only became entitled to compensation under EU law in October last year, when the European Commission announced that redress for avoidable delays of over three hours should be paid out by airlines.
Because of this announcement, Mr Dawson was just about able to submit a claim within the six-year limitation period.
He said: ‘I wrote to them last November claiming for compensation, but I didn’t hear anything back from them so I went before the small claims court in December.
‘We have ended up getting about £500 each back for our flights, which cost £1,000, but it was more the principle of it. I wasn’t aware I was eligible for compensation until the announcement by the European Commission in October.
‘Thomson are appealing the decision in Cambridge, but I am pretty confident that the original decision was right.’
Coby Benson, technical legal manager at Bott & Co, said since July the law firm has heard from passengers who have been denied compensation by Thomson based on the two-year limitation rule, in spite of the judge ruling in favour of Mr Dawson.
He said: ‘The EC Regulation 261 allows for each country’s limitations to be applied in delayed flight claims. For the UK this is six years, however, airlines have been denying passengers compensation by telling them the limitation is two years.
‘We’re delighted for Mr Dawson that he has been able to fight the airlines on his own up to this point but we’ve stepped in to see his case through to the Court of Appeal in order to make sure that he has all the legal representation and support that is required.’
EC Regulation 261
The European Commission ruled last October that passengers who suffer flight delays of more than three hours may be entitled to compensation.
YOUR COMPENSATION RIGHTS
Compensation is available on any flight leaving an EU airport, into the EU, or on an EU-based airline, that is delayed by more than three hours under Regulation (EC) 261/2004.
Compensation is €250 for inter-EU flights of 930 miles or less, €400 for flights between 930 and 1,860 miles, and €600 for other journeys.
You can actually claim for flight delays dating back to February 2005, but if the case comes to court then the cut-off point is six years.
Even if an airline is not responsible for the delay – for example if extreme weather is preventing travel – it still has a duty of care to delayed passengers. They should provide food and refreshments, phone calls and even hotels if necessary.
If you’ve been left out of pocket as a result of a delay, it’s important to keep receipts so you can claim them back off the airline at a later date.
In a bid to help clear up the grey area over the extraordinary circumstances get-out clause the European Commission published a preliminary list of what may be extraordinary circumstances in April 2013, that was put together following discussions between EU members states’ National Enforcement Bodies.
However, this comes with caveats in the notes at the start and is not legally binding, so passengers can still challenge airlines in court.
Although there has been some confusion about the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ in which airlines can turn down compensation, EC Regulation 261/2004 does not place a time limit on how far back claims could go, instead saying that would be determined by the laws in individual EU member states.
In the UK the statute of limitations law is six years, and as such it is the view of the courts and of the UK’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, that claims from within that last six years are eligible for compensation.
Thomson argued that the Montreal Convention has been given the backing of the UK’s Supreme Court when it comes to ‘international carriage of air’ claims, but the CAA told This is Money that this is typically applied to cases of lost baggage, rather than flight delays.
A CAA spokesman said: ‘Different airlines will have different positions on this, but it is our view and the view of courts that passengers will have up to six years to make a claim.
‘The Montreal Convention is generally used to settle claims involving baggage, for flight delays the regulation that should be followed is EC 261.
‘Either way, we would advise anyone who has suffered delays to make their claim as soon as possible after it happened, as it makes it easier to access information.’
A spokesman for Thomson said: ‘Thomson Airways notes the ruling of the judge in the Dawson case.
‘The European Court of Justice has confirmed that as Regulation 261 doesn’t say how long passengers have to bring their claims, we need to look to our national law.
‘The Supreme Court in the UK has said that all claims to do with “international carriage by air” are subject to the framework of the Montreal Convention which provides that claims need to be brought within two years.
‘We have exercised our right to appeal and given the legal processes in place, it would be inappropriate to comment further.’
In response, Mr Benson said: ‘The comments from Thomson are disappointing, given that the Judge was so emphatic in confirming that their position was wrong and that the European Court of Justice has held unequivocally that the Montreal Convention is not applicable to a claim under Regulation 261.’
If you have been denied compensation by an airline citing the Montreal Convention’s two-year limit on claims, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The commission opened an inquiry in March into whether the rescue attempts are in breach of EU laws on state aid.
A plan to restructure the carrier, which made losses of €55.8 million last year, are due to be presented to the EC this month.
Cyprus Airways received a government loan of €73 million at the end of last year and a further €31.3 million in January.
The government of Cyprus wants to provide the additional funding to enable Cyprus Airways to continue to fly tourists and potential investors into its two international airports.
Plans to turn the airline around include cutting its fleet from nine to six aircraft and make further redundancies to add to 490 jobs which are being cut by the end of the year. Staff that remain face a pay cut.
Cypriot finance minister Harris Georgiades, quoted by the newspaper, said: “We feel a locally-based carrier will give service to the economy. It won’t be profitable without radical decisions.”
But the commission said it doubted whether a “credible restructuring plan” is in place for the airline.
Cyprus Airways recently cut fares by 30% on routes to 15 destinations in Europe and the Middle East.
Measures to boost tourism include the implementation of an open sky policy to tempt foreign airlines to use the country’s airports for connecting flights.
Sourced from Travel Weekly
By Cathy Buyck,
The vast majority of airports in Europe and the airlines that operate from these facilities are facing fundamental changes due to stricter regulation on state aid. The European Commission (EC) laid out plans to overhaul current guidelines on how public—national, regional or local—authorities subsidize airports and streamline rules on the support for airlines adding routes or services.
The EC argues that the revised rules are necessary to limit distortions of competition within the European Union (EU), and avoid airport overcapacity. But these new rules are “disconnected from reality” Airports Council International Europe claims while the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) describes them as “detrimental” to its members.
Introducing limitations on public financing of airport developments “flies in the face of the airport capacity crunch brewing here in Europe—a move that would probably be considered foolhardy in the rest of the world,” says ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec. The new economic powerhouses in Asia and the Persian Gulf area are funding and using airport infrastructure projects as instruments of economic strategy, and “Europe is cutting its wings. We feel the commission is more guided by fiscal austerity than competition concerns,” he adds.
Furthermore, the new policy will introduce discrimination in favor of the competing rail sector, making air transport the only transportation mode in Europe having to pay for its infrastructure. “The rail sector in Europe has always been hugely subsidized and yet this seems to be accepted as the norm. Where is the level playing field?,” ERA Director General Simon McNamara pointedly notes. Rail receives €32 billion ($41 bililon) in public aid every year.
The EC deems a revision of the 1994 and 2005 community guidelines on airport financing and start-up aid to airlines departing from regional airports is necessary because the aviation industry has changed considerably in the past two decades, with low-cost carriers (LCCs) now accounting for a larger share of intra-European traffic than incumbent legacy airlines. The airport sector has also transformed, with regional and local authorities investing in terminals and runways to attract the likes of Ryanair, Norwegian, Wizz Air, Volotea and Jet2.com.
The mushrooming of subsidized regional airports across the EU and the often generous handouts and ingenious support packages to—primarily—LCCs bedevil Europe’s once-dominant flag carriers.
The most prominent dispute is Brussels Airlines’ irritation over regional government subsidies for Brussels South Charleroi Airport and its agreement with Ryanair, but there are many similar complaints in other EU member states. There are 61 cases pending with the EU’s antitrust services regarding alleged illegal public support for or by regional airports; 30 of these are under formal investigation. The EU is also investigating alleged illegal state aid to nine airlines.
Sourced by Aviation Week
There had been fears that officials would extend the scope of liability and in doing so seriously undermine the status of agents.
Last year a group of UK agents, fearing this outcome, formed the Association of Travel Agents (ATA). They claimed Abta was not lobbying in their favour, something the association strongly denied.
However, having seen what the European Commission is proposing, observers say the proposals follow the UK’s hard-won Flight-Plus approach to financial protection.
Alan Bowen, legal adviser to the Association of Atol Companies, described the reform as a “damp squib”.
“From a consumer point of view in the UK there is nothing in there at all because we have already done everything they are talking about,” he said.
“If I was a consumer association I would be furious because there had been lots of indications that they would extend liability to people not selling [traditional] packages.
“The only change is that the Flight-Plus concept is now extended to other forms of travel like rail, coach and ferry-plus accommodation.
“But there is no extension of liability for the performance of the contract. The ATA will wonder why they ever bothered because there is nothing to worry about.”
Abta welcomed the publication of the proposal as an endorsement of its position.
In a statement, it said: “We are pleased to see that in this proposal, the European Commission has listened to our views on a number of key points including protecting the rights of agents to act as agents.
“We are also very encouraged that the commission has chosen not to add some specific burdensome responsibilities…including cooling off periods for holiday bookings and a possible extension of tour operator liabilities beyond the liabilities of airlines.”
Abta added that a number of areas needed further clarification before the proposals become law in 2016 at the earliest, including the definition of ‘Assisted Travel Arrangements’ and the definitions of a package holiday.
In 2006, the association fought and won a High Court legal battle with the CAA against what it regarded as an attempt to broaden the definition of a package to include agents dynamically creating trips.
Assisted Travel Arrangements is the term the European Commission uses for combinations of travel product bought through linked booking processes where “the defining feature of a package” – an inclusive or total price – is not present.
Under the new proposals, firms selling these sort of arrangements will have to offer more information to “explain clearly…that only the individual service providers are liable for the performance of the travel services concerned”.
Welcoming reform of the PTD, Tui Travel chief executive Peter Long said: “The European Commission has for some considerable time recognised that the way many travellers book their holidays is evolving, yet the consumer rights haven’t changed in more than 30 years.
“We believe it is important that not only should customers have the same rights irrespective of how they book, but that they should be clear and simple to avoid confusion.”
Sourced from Travel Weekly
By Sophie Griffiths
Reforms to the Package Travel Directive have been unveiled, with the European Commission insisting that the update brings the PTD into the “digital age”.
The European Commission said the reforms would “improve consumer rights for 120 million holkidaymakers”, although Abta has warned that travel businesses are unlikely to see any changes before 2016.
The proposal dictates that for buyers of traditional and customised packages, there will be stricter controls on price surcharges, with a 10% cap on price increases and a requirement to pass on price reductionsin equivalent circumstances
There will also be improved cancellation rights, with consumers able to enjoy more flexibility by being able to terminate the contract before leaving home and paying the organiser a reasonable compensation. They will also be able to cancel the contract, free of charge, before departure in the event of natural disasters, civil unrest, or similar serious situations at the destination that would affect the holiday, when, e.g. the embassies give negative travel advices.
There will also be better information on liability, “in a plain and intelligible language consumers will need to be informed that the organiser is responsible for the proper performance of all included services – whereas today diverging national rules concerning the responsible party (organiser, retailer or both) lead to a situation where organisers and retailers refer the consumer to the other party, neither of them taking responsibility”.
Elsewhere, the EC said there would be “better redress” – in addition to price reductions in case a travel service has not been performed as it should have been, consumers will be a claim compensation for any ‘immaterial damage’ suffered, in particular in case of a spoilt holiday.
Lastly it said a single contact point if something goes wrong: Consumers will be able to address complaints or claims directly to the retailer (travel agent) from whom they bought their holiday.
Meanwhile for buyers of other customised travel arrangements, the EC said today’s proposal entails:
1. a right to get their money back and be repatriated, if needed, in case the seller, the carrier or any other relevant service provider goes bankrupt while they are on holiday,
2. better information about who is liable for the performance of each service.
For businesses today’s proposal will cut red tape and compliance costs by:
1. creating a level playing field between different operators,
2. abolishing outdated requirementsto reprint brochures, thereby saving tour operators and travel agents an estimated €390 million per year,
3. excluding managed business travelfrom the Directive, which is expected to lead to savings of up to € 76 million per year,
4. providing EU-wide rules on information, liability and mutual recognition of national insolvency protection schemes, thus facilitating cross-border trade.
The EC said the reform “further bolsters protection for consumers by increasing transparency and strengthening protection in case something goes wrong.”
Businesses will also benefit, it said, as the Commission is scrapping outdated information requirements such as the need to reprint brochures and making sure that national insolvency protection schemes are recognised across borders.
“In the 1990s, most Europeans picked out a pre-arranged package deal from a brochure and booked it at their local travel agent,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. “Since then, European legislation has helped millions of people enjoy stress-free holidays. But times have changed and we need to update the rules to keep pace with a changing market. EU package travel rules need to be fit for the digital age and meet consumers’ expectations. Today we are boosting protection for millions of consumers booking customised travel arrangements. The EU is acting to provide a safety net and peace of mind for holiday makers if something goes wrong.”
It has been a long and lengthy battle to get to the point where the European Commission is ready to release details of the PTD reform.
In 2007, the Commission published a working document setting out the main regulatory problems within package travel and also to consult stakeholders on issues related to the Directive.
The consultation showed strong support for its revision, and in January 2009 the Commission launched a ‘study on consumer detriment in the area of dynamic packages”.
A public consultation was then held on the revision of the Directive in November 2009, and in April 2010, the Commission held a full-day stakeholders’ workshop on the revision of the Package Travel Directive.
A conference was also held a conference with stakeholders on the PTD’s revision.
There has been mounting concern over the PTD in recent months with the Association of Travel Agents formed in October 2012 with the sole purpose to campaign for a fair outcome from the on-going PTD.
Meanwhile there were also fears the PTD could be scrapped, after TTG learned in April that a new proposal to cancel it entirely had been added to the two other options of either modernising it or maintaining it.
Sourced by TTG Digital
Some airlines are continuing to charge hefty fees to change names – or even to correct minor spelling mistakes – on tickets, a consumer group has warned.
Which? Travel investigated the costs following “recurrent” complaints from members who had been charged for minor name changes, with some having to buy another ticket.
The European Commission believes customers should not be charged for booking errors up to 48 hours before departure
It found that asking an airline to change the name on a ticket could cost more than £100, as they reserve the right to impose such a charge in their terms and conditions.
However, it also found that many airlines would correct minor errors free of charge providing customers contacted them in advance of flying.
One Which? member, Frederick Hubbard, was charged an administration fee of £45 and £540 for a new, refundable, return ticket to Detroit when he missed an ‘e’ out of his name when booking on Lastminute.com, the magazine reported.
He received his money back within a week after complaining to the agency, but Which? noted that the terms and conditions stated that refunds could take up to 16 weeks.
The European Commission plans to reform consumers’ flight rights and is calling for an end to “punitive” administration fees for spelling errors.
It says airlines should provide reasonable corrections of booking errors free of charge up to 48 hours before departure.
According to the Which? report, British Airways does not charge for spelling mistakes but will ask customers to pay any increase in taxes, fees and charges since the original booking.
EasyJet charged £35 for an online name change but corrected spelling errors free of charge, while Monarch charged £100 for online name changes or £120 via the call centre but did not charge for simple spelling errors.
Ryanair charged £110 for a name change online or £160 via the call centre or at the airport, while minor errors may be charged at £10 through the reservations centre.
Virgin Atlantic charged £30 to correct a spelling error, Which? said.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “It’s outrageous that getting an airline to correct a mistake could cost you more than £100 but the good news is that some will amend minor errors free of charge if you contact them.
“People should be aware that conditions may be different if you book through a tour operator or travel agent. Travellers should double check bookings to ensure that all their details are correct to avoid hefty charges.”
Ryanair head of communications Robin Kiely said: “Passengers are asked to ensure that the details they enter at the time of booking are correct before completing their booking, thus avoiding the need to make any amendments. Small spelling errors can be amended, subject to a £10 administration fee, by calling Ryanair’s reservation centre.
“However, Ryanair must charge a name change fee where there is a substantial name change to discourage ‘screenscraping’ whereby travel websites purchase Ryanair’s cheapest fares and later sell them on to unwitting consumers at hugely inflated costs. Ryanair hopes to reduce the cost of this service when the EU bans the practice of screenscraping and the unauthorised sale of Ryanair tickets by third party websites is banned.”
Sourced from Huffington Post