• 'It's a David vs. Goliath story, as only 2 percent of passengers actually get compensation' (Photo: *tamara*)

Air passengers to get more rights under EU bill

06.02.14 @ 09:23

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - Air passengers could receive up to €600 in compensation for delayed flights under new draft rules backed by MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday (5 February).

“It's a David vs. Goliath story, as only 2 percent of passengers actually get compensation after filing a complaint against an airline,” said Luxembourg centre-right MEP Georges Bach, the parliament’s lead negotiator on the file.

The draft rules, initially proposed by the European Commission and then strengthened by the parliament, mean passengers could have new rights when it comes to information, care and re-routing.

People stranded for up to 7 hours on flights over 6000 km would receive €600. This drops to €400 for five hour delays on flights that are up to 6000 km and €300 on three hour delays for flights that are up to 3500 km.

The co-legislative proposal still needs to be discussed among member states over the summer.

But the bill, as it stands, includes calls for relaxed hand-luggage allowances, a tougher complaints system, and information delivered within 30 minutes on rescheduled flights.

Another new measure means people who miss or do not show up for the outbound leg of the journey can still use their return ticket. They say final ticket prices also need to reflect possible hidden fees, like credit card costs and payments for checked-in luggage.

“We want to clarify and limit the definition of 'extraordinary circumstances',” said Bach.

Airlines, for instance, would no longer be able to deny compensation to stranded passengers if they suddenly declare bankruptcy.

They would also be required to set up contact points to inform passengers about their rights.

EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas said the aim behind the bill is get passengers where they want to be as quickly as possible while giving the airlines the time they need to sort problems out.

But MEPs were unimpressed by the commission’s original proposal on compensation for delays.

Kallas’ team of lawmakers said passengers should be eligible for compensations after a five-hour delay. Deputies reduced the threshold to three hours.

“This is the bare minimum that should be provided for under EU legislation and MEPs have today voted to endorse this and not the 5 hours proposed by the commission,” noted Keith Taylor, a British Green MEP.