European Commission with plans for further improvements to EU passenger rights
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
The European Commission has announced new proposals aimed to improve passenger rights in the European Union. The proposed changes are mainly focused on the areas of multimodal journeys and package travels. Additionally, should the proposals get implemented, passengers with disabilities can also expect improved travelling experiences.
Multimodal travel passenger rights
Passengers using different types of transportation methods in one trip can expect improved rights and protections. When a passenger purchases a multimodal journey under one transport contract, the carrier will have to provide them assistance in the event of a missed connection.
Additionally, multimodal travellers can expect better access to information before and during a multimodal trip. This includes information on minimum connecting times between the different types of transport services they use.
It’s worth noting that in the last few years, a trend of cooperation between airlines and rail companies can be seen. For example, Air France already offers a flight+train service and United Airlines, Lufthansa Group and Deutsche Bahn have just announced a similar offering to those travelling to and from Germany. We can expect the new regulations would improve the rights of passengers opting for such a multimodal travel service.
Better rights for passengers with disabilities
The improvements in rights of passengers with reduced mobility refer to two main areas: travelling by plane and multimodal transport.
Firstly, if a passenger has to be accompanied by someone else in order to comply with aviation safety requirements (e.g the passenger cannot fasten the seatbelt by themselves), then the airline will have to transport the companion free of charge. If practical, the companion should also be seated next to the passenger they are assisting. This right already existed for travellers using rail, ship and bus/coach, but will now also apply for air travel.
Secondly, passengers with reduced mobility switching transport mode to another are to be assisted at connecting points by carriers/terminal operators. This applies, however, only to passengers travelling multimodally under a single contract or in the case of travelling through multimodal passenger hubs.
Rights improvements for package travellers
The European Commission also promises improvements for those booking their journeys (including flights) via travel agencies or ticket selling websites. The new rights package includes a guarantee of better information for passengers on their rights, such as the right to a monetary refund instead of a voucher, in the event of a cancelled journey.
However, these new proposals do not seem to fully resolve the issue of package travellers.
“The Commission’s proposals suggest that an airline issues the refund to the travel organisation within 7 days and therefore the passenger should receive the refund within 14 days from the trip’s cancellation. However, we know from experience that such deadlines are rarely sticked to and enforced. This means that delays in payouts, and other issues with payouts, will still be present — and travel agencies and airlines will keep pointing at each other saying: It’s their fault! We expect that many cases related to package travels will still need to be enforced through courts,” said Tom van Bokhoven from Flight-Delayed.co.uk, an organisation helping air passengers with claiming their rights in the event of disrupted flights.
“Among the proposals, there is also an idea of creating a fund that protects passengers in the case of an insolvency of a travel agency, where the agency is unable to pay out the refunds. However, if this idea does not get implemented, nothing will really change and passengers might still end up without money and/or in long legal battles,” added van Bokhoven.
Missing link: airlines
According to van Bokhoven, the new proposals shift the talking points towards online travel agencies while more should be done in regards to the acts of airlines.
“The fund protecting passengers from a travel service provider’s insolvency should be also implemented for airlines, not only travel agencies. Likewise, there should be more enforcement in regards to the deadlines of payouts set for travel agencies and airlines. These are just a few points from the many that still need to be implemented to not leave passengers out in the cold in the event of flight and travel disruptions.”
Since 2010, Flight-Delayed.co.uk (part of Your-ce.com) has been helping passengers fight for their rights in the event of delayed, cancelled, and overbooked flights. We have legal teams in 9 countries, have won 98% of court cases, and work exclusively on a "no win, no fee" basis.