EU launches air passenger law overhaul

Marion Dakers
THE EUROPEAN Union yesterday laid out plans to shake up airline passenger compensation laws, after carriers faced massive bills from the Icelandic ash cloud and snow storms.

The EU will discuss wide-reaching changes with aviation stakeholders and present a new law in 2012, European Commission vice-president Siim Kallas said yesterday.

The review of Regulation 261 will look at who should shoulder the cost of “extraordinary circumstances” such as natural disasters that disrupt air travel – which could mean airports like Heathrow could be forced to pay some costs for events like last Christmas’s snow chaos.

The EU will also look at how much compensation should be paid to passengers if their flights are cancelled or delayed, as well as examining rules on lost luggage and rescheduled flights.

“The next big push will be to step up enforcement – it is not enough to have rights on paper, they must be applied on the ground,” said Kallas in a statement.”[W]e cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the lessons learnt from what passengers and industry suffered during the 2010 ash crisis and snow.”

The EU said the regulation needs to be strengthened and used in a uniform way across the bloc, and aims to produce extra guidelines by the end of the year.

Ryanair called Regulation 261 “unfair” when it introduced a €2 (£1.77) per passenger levy two weeks ago to help pay for compensation doled out to customers caught up in uncontrollable events.

Under rules introduced in the EU in 2005, passengers are granted rights, such as food and shelter if a flight is delayed beyond four hours.
But uncertainty in the law has caused fighting between airlines, customers and airports.