Following a series of public consultations in which ACI EUROPE had a very active role over the last two years, the European Commission concluded that it was time to revise the legislation in force. ACI EUROPE believes that the European Commission’s proposed revision provides a balanced result.
Importantly, the common principle that a passenger’s primary relationship is with the air carrier has been retained, with some exceptions. Air carriers’ obligation to provide care to passengers – meals and accommodation – is currently unlimited in all cases, but under the proposed revision, in the case of extraordinary circumstances, it will be limited to three nights and a maximum of €100 per night.
New airports’ obligations under the new proposal are to provide information and to establish contingency plans in cases of significant disruption of air traffic. The latter is limited to airports handling more than three million passengers per year; airports below the three million threshold are required to make “all reasonable efforts” to provide information and assistance. In fact, Europe’s airports have proactively informed passengers of their rights (with the prominent display of eye-catching posters, for example) and provided assistance and care to stranded passengers even before being obligated to do so. Airports’ swift adoption of social media has also seen them make use of these new channels to keep passenger informed during unusual circumstances and crises.
Also important is that the new proposal on ‘right of redress’ is equivalent to the current Article 13 of the Regulation. ACI EUROPE supports the wording, which reads: “In cases when an operating air carrier pays compensation or meets the other obligations incumbent on it under this Regulation, no provision of this Regulation or of national law may be interpreted as restricting its right to seek compensation for the costs incurred under this Regulation from any third parties which contributed to the event triggering compensation or other obligations.”
Siim Kallas, European Commission Vice-President Responsible for Transport, commented: “It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper. We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters most – when things go wrong. We know that the real priority for stranded passengers is just to get home. So our focus is on information, care and effective rerouting. The aim is to get passengers where they want to be as quickly as possible while giving the airlines the time they need to sort problems out.”
Disappointingly, the European Commission has not taken into account the multiple calls from both the European Parliament and ACI EUROPE to propose a ban on the one-bag rule. This disruptive rule has been implemented by a number of airlines and has made many passengers uneasy about shopping at the airport, lest they be charged extra for bringing a shopping bag on board. Under the proposal, air carriers have full commercial freedom to establish the conditions under which they permit baggage to be carried. However, they shall clearly indicate, at booking and at the check-in desks, the maximum cabin baggage allowance and additional charges at booking and on request at the airport. Musical instruments are considered a special category of baggage and are not subject to the one cabin bag limit. The failure to propose a ban on the one-bag rule is expected to be subject to legislative amendment.
The European Commission has presented its proposed revision of the Air Passenger Rights legislation to the European Parliament and the European Council under the ordinary legislative procedure. The European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism has appointed a Rapporteur – Georges Bach MEP (Luxembourg) and ACI EUROPE plans to meet with him in April. The proposed revision will be reviewed in a report by Mr Bach. It will then be discussed first in the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee, and once amended and approved it will go to the Plenary session, and then to the European Council. A timeline for this process has yet to be determined.