The single market for all kinds of transport in the European Union has greatly benefited passengers: they now enjoy lower fares and a wider choice of carriers and services than in the past. However, measures are needed to protect passengers’ interests and ensure that they fully benefit from the single market.
EU law protects air passengers who are denied boarding or whose flight is cancelled or delayed. The EU also provides rights to passengers in case of accidents or loss, destruction or damage to baggage. Persons with disabilities or reduced mobility enjoy specific rights and protection under European passenger rights legislation.
Now passenger rights will be reinforced, thanks to new European Commission proposals. Right now, the European Union is the only area in the world which has a passenger rights framework in place for all transport modes. But while EU legislation is good, passengers face issues due to poor implementation and enforcement. The proposed updates to existing mobility legislation would strengthen the enforcement mechanisms and improve rules for reimbursement for air passengers.
The revised Passengers Rights Regulation and 2015 Package Travel Directive would bring improvements to
- Persons with disabilities travelling by air – if the airline obliges them to travel accompanied, the person accompanying them would travel free of charge
- Air tickets bought through intermediaries (like travel agencies) – passengers will have more clarity who will reimburse them: the transport operator or the intermediary
- Multimodal journeys – passengers using different types of transport will be entitled to better information and protection
- Prepayments for travel packages at the time of booking or ‘downpayments’ – limitation to max 25% of the package price up until 28 days before departure
- Refund through vouchers – automatic refund if not used before the end of their validity period and protection against travel company insolvency
- The right to get refunded within 14 days is reaffirmed
The Commission is also proposing to create a ‘common European mobility data space’ which will make it easier to access and share transport data both for businesses and passengers. The new suggested rules will encourage Member States to proactively monitor travel issues and not only respond when complaints are there. If enacted, the Commission would be able to ask EU countries to investigate and take action where necessary.