Air passengers face violations of their rights on a daily basis

The European Consumer Centres Network or ECC-Net conducted a survey in all the European Union Member States and Norway and Iceland and analysed documented consumer complaints regarding air travel. The European Consumer Centre of Estonia, operating at the Consumer Protection Board and also being a member of the European Consumer Centres Network, also participated in the survey. The centres that form the network settle consumer complaints related to cross-border purchases; therefore, the survey only included complaints relating to cross-border air travel.

The survey analysed 27 different cases, handled by different European Consumer Centres of Europe, of the total number of approximately 5,000 appeals that were collected from the 25 member states, Norway and Iceland. The appeals involved both cancelled and delayed flights, denied boarding and late arrival, loss or damage of luggage. The largest number of problems is related to luggage (33%), followed by complaints involving cancellation of flights (26%), delayed flights (16%) and denied boarding (7%). In addition to specific problems that require solving, the appeals made by passengers often included disappointment with the attitude of the flight operators. “Passengers feel uneasy in such situations – like a delayed flight or problems with luggage – where the information is only provided at the request of the passenger; passengers expect a more customer-friendly and caring attitude from flight operators”, stated Kristina Vaksmaa, Director of the European Consumer Centre of Estonia.

While the number of cases related to passengers’ rights that require settlement is smaller in Estonia – compared to Ireland, Sweden, Germany or other larger member states where airline companies are also proportionally bigger – the problem is also acute in Estonia. The survey demonstrates that compared to 2005, the number of complaints concerning the rights of air passengers has grown by 96%. Nevertheless, there are no reasons to expect that the situation has deteriorated considerably; instead, the growth in the number of complaints is attributable to an increase in the number of flights and awareness of consumers of their rights, resulting in a greater number of complaints.

Air passengers’ rights in the European Union are regulated by regulation no. 261/2004, which is directly applicable in all member states as well as Norway and Iceland. Passengers’ rights are also specified in the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air (the Montreal Convention).

The survey, conducted by the European Consumer Centres, includes not only statistical information on complaints and related analysis, but also 34 different recommendations for improving the situation of air passengers, plus specific examples on different cases involving air passengers from all over Europe. The ECC-Network centres hope that such mapping and analysis of the problems, and notifying the air carriers shall, hopefully, contribute to an improvement in the situation and an increase in awareness among consumers. The survey is also vitally important for National Enforcement Bodies in exercising various sanctions to protect the rights of air passengers. In Estonia, the National Enforcement Bodies representing the rights of air passengers is the Consumer Protection Board.

The report: “Air Passenger Rights: Consumer Complaints 2006” in English is available HERE.