Ash crisis and snow prompt EC to strengthen passenger rights laws
Published 12/04/2011 | 05:00
The European Commission has warned that it will toughen controversial passenger rights that recently prompted Ryanair to introduce a €2 levy on all its tickets.
But releasing the results of a six-year review of the passenger rights legislation -- called regulation 261 -- EC vice-president Siim Kallas also said stakeholders, which would include Ryanair and other airlines across Europe, were being invited to submit their views on the rules.
Mr Kallas said the review of the existing legislation would seek to clarify key issues such as limits for liability in cases where there were exceptional circumstances, compensation thresholds and shared risk between operators in the supply chain. He also said that loopholes would be plugged.
"In particular, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the lessons learnt from what passengers and industry suffered during the 2010 ash crisis and snow," he added.
The EC said the Icelandic volcanic eruption illustrated "some of the structural limits" of the legislation, such as the unlimited liability regarding right to passenger care arising from major natural disasters. It said the proportionality of liability in such cases "may merit assessment".
The EC is undertaking a review of the financial cost of the volcanic crisis, but added that the review requires the travel industry to provide relevant data which may not yet be available because many passenger claims are still pending.
"A full assessment of reliable figures, current provisions and possible future measures is required to ensure that no excessive burden is placed on the aviation industry, whilst also ensuring that citizens do not bear the financial cost and inconvenience of natural catastrophes alone," said the EC.
A Ryanair spokesman said yesterday any reform of the 261 rule should not impose "further unreasonable costs to airlines since these will simply get passed on to passengers in the form of higher fares".
Last month, Ryanair said that over the previous year it had incurred €100m of costs as a result of flight cancellations, delays and providing right to care, compensation and legal expenses arising from more than 15,000 flight cancellations and more than 2.4 million disrupted passengers.
It said the majority of the claims arose from periods where the airline had been unable to fly due to the closure of airspace as a result of the Icelandic volcanic eruption, bad snow late last year and more than two weeks of combined strikes by air traffic controllers in Spain, Belgium, France and Germany last summer.
Ryanair said the expenses it incurred as a result under the provisions of the 261 rule were "unfair and discriminatory".