Europe passenger rights

Airlines Shocked by Lack of Timely Action from Regulators

European Regions Airline Association (ERA) shares profound disappointment in the guidelines published by the European Commission on EU passenger rights in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The new guidelines on Regulation 261/2004 (EU261) have shown a huge lack of understanding by the European Commission, with the guidance intended to reassure passengers that their rights are protected, rather than clear measures to support airlines deeply in need and provide flexibility on the limitation of obligations during this period of crisis.

ERA joined industry this week in requesting:

  1. Recognition that no compensation is due in the event of cancellations due to COVID-19.
  2. A limitation on the extensive obligations to provide care and assistance in the event of cancellations due to COVID-19.
  3. Flexibility to allow airlines to offer rebooking or vouchers in place of refunds in the event of cancellations due to the pandemic.

Whilst it was recognised that cancellations caused by externally-imposed measures are to be considered as an extraordinary circumstance, airlines will still potentially be responsible for unlimited care to passengers who have been stranded as a result of government decisions to close borders. Additionally, the guidance provided no flexibility for airlines to offer rebooking or vouchers in place of refunds.

ERA is pleased that the need for a substantial package for the aviation sector was not overlooked, and that this will include using all available tools, such as state aid, investment initiatives and suspension/deferral of charges. However, the EU Transport Ministers who met yesterday provided no clear and timely decisions in alleviating the pressures on the aviation industry.

Montserrat Barriga, ERA Director General, says: “Despite many European airlines already facing enormous financial pressures, the lack of concrete action taken by the European Commission has proven they have ignored the vital urgency of mitigating the effects of this crisis. Action is needed now if the industry is to survive this catastrophic situation that is likely to change the future of air transport in Europe forever. We need to be thinking both long term and short term. When we are no longer facing these pandemic circumstances, resuming air travel will be vital to help the European economy to recover. Restoring air links and connectivity for Europe’s citizens is essential.”

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