European Consumer Centres' Network (EEC network) carried out a new joint project mapping the situation and complaints of air passengers. This network has been called by the European Commission with a purpose of solving the cross-border complaints in order to contribute to a more efficient operation of the internal market. The centre of EEC network in Estonia acts under the Consumer Protection Board.
The basic purpose of this research was to map the issues related to the plane traveller rights and to develop the potential recommendations for the improvement of the situation. The plane traveller rights are regulated by the directive 261/2004 of the European Parliament and Council and it is a directly applicable act providing identical rights to all travellers who depart or arrive in the airport on the territory of the European Union and in the cases the flight is operated by a air company of the European Union. Practices of 29 countries were used in the research whereas the countries included also Norway and Iceland in addition to the European Union member states.
12 622 complaints concerning the air passenger rights were solved by the centres of EEC network in 2010. 140 cases were related to Estonia. In comparison with 2009, the number of the complaints concerning the plane traveller rights has been increased remarkably – 59%. All these complaints were of cross-border nature, i.e. the traveller and air company did not originate from the same country. The main problems the travellers reported to the EEC centres were related to the delay of flights, deniged bording, cancellation of flights and problems concerning the luggage. The complaints are often characterised by insufficient information and care to the travellers, stiff policy of air air companies at the solution of claims, insufficient possibilities for extra-judicial solutions and certain shortcomings in the legislation.
One new purpose of the research in addition to the general analysis of plane traveller rights was to map the influence of the ash crisis in Iceland in 2010 on the aviation sector from the viewpoint of travellers. Arising from the complaints caused by the ash crisis, the crisis situation accentuated primarily the insufficient availability of the information about the plane traveller rights. The obligation of care by the air companies was often not performed and the alternative flights were sometimes not offered and were left up to the travellers themselves. It often appeared that the air companies enforced additional rules to solve the situation but these rules were not in compliance with the applicable legal standards.
The research includes the proposals to the air companies, application institution and legislative bodies. Based on the analysis of complaints, the following conclusions are drawn:
- In the case of luggage problems, the information to the travellers should be more available and integral and it must include the terms for filing complaints and rules for the replacement of the necessary items in the case of delay of the luggage.
- In the case of delay and cancellation of the flights the obligation of care should be performed on time and better. For example, if the obligation of catering can not be performed, a certain amount should be compensated to the travellers and the receipts for the amounts spent on foods should not be necessary to submit.
- The air companies often fail to provide evidence of the circumstances causing the cancellation of flights and in these cases the air companies should not be exempted from the payment of compensations.
- In order to ensure the traveller rights, the possibilities to impose sanctions of the air companies should be considered if the air companies do not perform the legal obligation to inform the travellers in written about their rights concerning the delay, cancellation or not permitting to the board.
You can find the full research in English on the homepage of the European Consumer Centre - http://www.consumer.ee/public/Air_Passenger_rights_report_2011.pdf
Head of the European Consumer Centre of Estonia
Consumer Protection Board