Friday, 23 May 2014

European Commission releases report on complaint handling and enforcement of the Air Passenger Rights Regulations

The European Commission released a report on the application and enforcement of the EU Regulations on the rights of air passengers, i.e. Regulation 261/2004, which lays down passenger rights in case of long delay, flight cancellation and denied boarding, and Regulation 1107/2006, which provides for the rights of persons with reduced mobility. The report contains statistics for the period 2010-2012, based on data reported by the National Enforcement Bodies (NEBs) and Eurocontrol. The statistics provide very interesting information.

Whereas in 2010 the prevailing cause that triggered the application of the Regulations was cancellation of flights (55%), in 2011 and 2012 that cause were long delays (i.e. more than 2 hours), the percentage of which increased steadily from 2010 to 2012 (18%, 36% and 38% respectively). However, 2010 was a special year, because many flight cancellation were due to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano.

Concerning Regulation 261/2004, the vast majority of cases was settled out of the court and sanctions were imposed only in a very small fraction of cases (1%-2%). The same is valid as to the application of Regulation 1107/2006 in 2010 and 2011 (sanctions were imposed in 1% of the cases); however, in 2012 the percentage of the sanctioned cases increased to 8%. The Commission attributes such increase to the reporting of UK incidents, which started in 2012, combined with the wide interpretation of Regulation 1107/2006 by the UK CAA.

Concerning sanctions, a very interesting feature is the range of the maximum amount foreseen across the EU. Whereas violations of Regulation 261/2004 in Romania are sanctioned with a fine of up to € 563, in Belgium the cap is € 24.000.000. However, the average cap for violations of Regulation 261/2004 is € 43.617 and for violations of Regulation 1107/2006 € 53.913. There are also countries that have established no maximum amount (Denmark, Sweden). In most EU Member States the sanctions are the same for both Regulations, yet in some countries the fines foreseen concerning Regulation 1107/2006 are higher or even significantly higher – the most extreme example is Greece, where the maximum amount foreseen for violations of Regulation 1107/2006 is ca 80 times higher (€ 250.000 against € 3.000).

The Commission estimates that the EU rules on passenger rights represent an average cost of between 0.6% and 1.8% of the airlines' turnover (depending on the entitled passengers that claim compensation), but for certain airlines it can be more than 5%.  This corresponds approximately to between €1 and €3 per one-way ticket. 

Click here for the Commission's press release and here for the Commission's report.

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