- Özgür Töre
Only 43% of EU citizens who have traveled by air, long-distance rail, coach, ship or ferry in the previous 12 months know that the EU has put in place rights for passengers.
Passenger rights are defined at EU level. They are applied by transport providers and enforced by national bodies. Disparities between national practices can make it hard for passengers to get a clear picture of what to do and to whom to turn, especially as passengers often move across EU borders.
According to the results of a Eurobarometer survey on passenger rights in the European Union (EU), 32% of all respondents (including those who did not travel with one of the transport modes referred to above in the last 12 months) know passenger rights exist in the EU, for air, rail, coach or ship or ferry transport. But only 14% are specifically aware for air travel, 8% for rail, 5% for coach and 3% for travel by ship or ferry. Respondents who have traveled by at least one of these modes are more likely to be aware of passenger rights (43% vs 32%), although this remains below 50%.
The percentage of travelers who feel they were well informed about their rights by transport companies before traveling varies by transport mode: 40% for air passengers, 29% for ship or ferry passengers, 26% for rail passengers and 26% for coach passengers. Percentages are even lower for information received during and after travel.
Respondents who have experienced disruption during air travel are more likely to have complained than those using other modes: 37% of air passengers vs 26% of coach passengers, 24% of rail passengers, and 18% of ship or ferry passengers complained. All modes combined: 26%. Among respondents who experienced a travel disruption but did not make an official complaint (72%), the most likely reason for not complaining was the feeling that it was useless to do so (45%), followed by the amount of money involved being seen as too small (25%).
Of those who have experienced air travel disruption over the last 12 months, 53% indicated that the airline offered some form of help (either food and drinks or alternative flight, reimbursement, financial compensation, accommodation, etc.), whether passengers complained or not. Only 43% of rail passenger respondents, and 38% who had traveled by coach, ship or ferry indicated that transport companies offered help in case of disruptions.
55% of respondents who complained to the transport company about disruption say they were satisfied by the way their complaint was dealt with, but only 37% of those who had experienced a disruption claimed to be satisfied with the way the transport company informed them about complaints procedures.
A large majority (81%) of those who have at some point requested assistance for a person with a disability or reduced mobility (i.e. 8% of respondents) declare themselves satisfied with the transport company's response. Fewer (60%) expressed satisfaction when more than one mode was used.
Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “The European Union is the only area in the world where citizens are protected by a full set of passenger rights. However, these rights need to be better known and easier to understand and enforced. Our rules should also provide more legal certainty to passengers and the industry. This is why the Commission proposed to modernize air and rail passenger rights. We now need Council and the European Parliament to swiftly reach agreement on them to ensure that people traveling in the EU are effectively protected."
The survey results will feed into two ongoing legislative procedures, on rail and air passenger rights, as well as evaluations of the rights of bus & coach passengers, the rights of ship and ferry passengers, and the rights of air passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility. Accessibility to multimodal transport for these passengers, as well as other travellers, will also be considered in this context.
The survey was conducted between 19 February and 4 March 2019, and involved interviewing 27,973 EU citizens.
EU legislation to protect passenger rights and ensure they are not lost in a myriad of national rules has been introduced for all transport modes – this is unique in the world, no other continent offers passengers of all modes such protection.