We can change the way we travel by air
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Friday, 19 December 2014

Make sure we monitor air passengers' rights

The representative of Air Passenger Watchdog in EU (Friendly Flying), an associate member of European Passenger Federation (EPF), has had an article published in the journal Regional International. The effectiveness of EU Regulation 261/2004 has been studied. The conclusion reads the regulation is not doing its job properly; and that passengers are still inconvenienced by cancellations, long delays and denial of boarding through overbooking. National Enforcement Bodies, which are responsible for implementing the regulation, often do not receive relevant data from the airlines.

From Friendly Flying's own traveler feedback, most claims arise from one of four problems:
1) The right to use the first option to re-route under comparable conditions.
2) The airlines' duty of care while passengers wait for re-routing and rights to compensation, especially if airlines use their own interpretation of the "extraordinary circumstances" clause.
3) Differing rights in the case of a delay or cancellation.
4) The lack of time limits for lodging complaints.

Some but not all of these issues are being dealt with in the current revision of EC 261/2004. Friendly Flying is constantly monitoring the situation of air passengers in EU. Every passenger can report her/his case here and get support from experts of Air Passenger Watchdog in EU.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Call for a free flight back home for stranded passengers in the event of EU airline bankruptcy!

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced in Brussels on 25th November 2014 a new arrangement to help passengers impacted by airline bankruptcy. It looks the action was initiated by IATA member airlines flying to and from the EU to avoid the threat of levying a permanent statutory fund to aid passengers in such situations. "The passengers left stranded in the rare and unfortunate event of an airline bankruptcy will be offered ‘rescue fares’ from airlines to ensure they can get home“ says Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO. Unfortunately, the solution does not seem so much new. So called ‘rescue fares’ have been already offered by airlines to passengers impacted by airline bankruptcy for years... 

Then, what is the core of the problem?

The European Commission has estimated the proportion of total EU passengers affected by airline insolvencies is less than 0.07% for each year. In 2013, some 842 million passengers were carried by air in the EU-28. It means around 50.000 air passengers might be affected by airline bankruptcy every year. The risk to remain stranded far from home, with all its consequences (to pay another flight back home, to incur additional accommodation costs) and/or never be reimbursed for the part(s) of the journey not made is estimated at 12% of those passengers. It makes around 6.000 air passengers stranded far from home yearly. However, the impacts on each such passenger might be significant. For example the immediate costs for stranded passengers reached even €796 on average with failure of Air Madrid in 2007 (the carrier left numbers of passengers stranded in South America). The passengers who had not left yet and renounced to their trip lost €315 in average and passengers who decided to rebook lost €390 in average. In fact, of the passengers purchasing standalone tickets affected by insolvency over 2000 to 2010, 76% did not have any form of protection. It is high time for change. EU air passengers need greater protection and immediate help. Especially that passengers are entitled to these rights under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, and the assistance relates primarily to enable them back home as soon as possible.

Therefore we emphasis the key fact. The insolvency of air carrier and the sudden suspension of its operations affect the passengers switching to services of other carriers. The passengers' demand on the specific routes does not disappear, does it? The passengers still continue to travel. Although they use services of airlines, with the most convenient option for traveling (on the same a similar route).

We argue
The European Commission takes finally legislative work to enforce EU airlines to provide with free transport back home to passengers with a return ticket issued by EU air carrier and that suddenly ceases operations due to insolvency or bankruptcy. This particularly difficult situation for passengers stranded at the airports needs to be resolved. In our call for action we refer both to interests of consumers, affected by the bankruptcy of the airline, and to social responsibility of business entities, which are part of the EU sustainable transportation system.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Monitoring the enforcement of air passenger rights

The Association for Air Passengers Rights Przyjazne Latanie (Friendly Flying) - the first non-governmental, consumer organisation protecting air travellers in Poland - has been monitoring the enforcement of air passenger rights. During a yearly project there are a couple of actions planned e.g. in depth evaluation (via data analysis and qualitative survey researches) of governmental authorities and institutions responsible for enforcement of air passenger rights in Poland, facilitation of communication between passengers and airlines to develop alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The project is mainly aimed to help and protect the passengers who travel less frequently, mostly for private purposes and with their families. Those groups of passengers represent relatively low awareness of their rights. The activities are implemented as a part of project for non-governmental organizations called "Citizens for Democracy", financed from the Funds European Economic Area.
As a long-term goal of the project is to provide better enforcement of air passenger rights in Poland. For example, the evaluation of complains handling by various public institutions should result in bigger transparency, while access of air passengers to low cost and easy form of assistance via mediation and / or arbitration should increase practical execution of their rights. All groups of passengers (not only frequent travellers, who normally possess extra privileges from the airlines), which means over 24 million people travelling by air in Poland yearly will get easier access and support with enforcing their rights. The project will reduce the disparities and improve understanding among key stakeholders (air passengers, airlines, airports and public authorities). The key findings of the monitoring will be presented in the report, which is to be available in the second half of January 2015 and planned for a special conference in Warsaw. More information will follow.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The European Parliament pushes for enforceable air passenger rights

Delayed or stranded air passengers would be likelier to win compensation, and airlines would get clear rules on how to deal with passenger complaints, under a draft law voted by Parliament at the first reading on 5th February 2014. The consumer protection is to be improved.

Rescheduled flights
When flights are delayed, information on rescheduled flights would have to be made available to passengers no later than 30 minutes after the initial departure time.
Passengers with a return ticket could not be prevented from boarding the return journey even if they did not take the outward one.

Passengers would have to be informed early in the booking process about baggage allowances. Hand-luggage allowances would be increased to include a coat, a handbag, and one bag of airport shopping.

Air carriers which fail to reply to a complaint within 2 months would be deemed to have accepted the passenger’s claims. Those citing “extraordinary circumstances” in which they need not pay compensation would have to give the passenger a full written explanation. The draft rules include an exhaustive list of such circumstances, which include bird strikes, political unrest and unforeseen labour disputes.
However, in long-lasting extraordinary circumstances, such as the 2010 ash cloud crisis, air carriers’ liability to pay for passenger accommodation would be limited to 5 nights.

To ensure that passengers are not stranded when an air carrier goes bankrupt, Parliament inserted requirements for carriers to have in place appropriate guarantee mechanisms, such as guarantee funds, or to take out insurance policies.

Better enforcement
National authorities should be given sufficient powers to punish air carriers that infringe passenger rights and should assess their reports on how they help passengers to cope with flight delays and cancellations, say MEPs.

Next steps
This vote constitutes the European Parliament’s first reading position. Under the co-decision procedure, the Council of Ministers may accept the Parliament’s  position or  adopt its own position, for further discussion with Parliament.