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Passenger treatment to be fairer under Government proposals

Will changes bring fairer system for airline passengers?

The Government is proposing changes to the current EU Denied Boarding Regulations (EC261). Aviation Consumer Policy Reform consultation.  These regulations, in place since February 2005, entitle passengers to significant rights if their flight is delayed, cancelled or they are denied boarding. Travellers are entitled to fixed amounts, depending on the length of the flight and delay or cancellation.

The Government proposes to change this to allow claims for compensation based on the length of the flight delay and linked to the cost of travel. Currently this varies from 2 hours late for trips up to 1500km up to 4 or more hours late trips over 3,500km. Rates range from 125 Euros up to 600 Euros.

I believe the current system buys into the ‘compensation culture’. Genuine redress and goodwill gestures should be proportional to the amount spent but the current regulations do not take this into account and therefore low cost airlines are hardest hit. A fairer system for both business and consumers has to be a good thing. Although it may save airlines money the devil will be in the detail of any changes. Increases would risk increases in fares. It looks set to be percentages in line with rail and ferries. But the savings the airline make need to be spent on improvements for consumers not line the pockets of the airline shareholders.

ADR in the airline sector

The Government is also considering making Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mandatory for airlines. Currently there are two voluntary schemes in the airline sector. Consumers can take a complaint to an ADR provider and the company is bound by the decision, although the consumer isn’t.

Consumer bodies such as Which? have been calling for ADR in the airline sector to be mandatory for some years. In the CAA consultation on ADR in October 2020 Which? said

“… the CAA must ensure it makes the existing ADR schemes work better for passengers. The regulator should step up scrutiny of existing ADR bodies, and ensure greater transparency for the complaints handling process. It must also improve its requirements for data reporting and encourage airlines to act on their complaints data.”

Both Which? and I have previously recommended that the ADR provider be an ombudsman as this is appointed and monitored to a higher standard than other ADR provider schemes. (See Further information about ADR below.)

Airline Travel Assistance

There are also proposals to improve the travel experience for disabled travellers including by ensuring that travel assistance is always free and removing charges for wheelchairs and mobility equipment. I welcomed the proposed changes, saying that in general the proposals will bring greater equality to all travellers.

Further information about ADR

See More Ombudsman Omnishambles: The UK ADR landscape 20 months on… by Helen Dewdney and Marcus Williamson. February 2018 and Appendix J. This is an extract from the minutes of the Ombudsman Association Executive Committee meeting, 5 May 2017 that demonstrates how the standards required to be an ombudsman are higher than for other ADR providers.

For more information on  see ADR research, articles, investigations, consultation responses and reports. over the last 7 years.

CAA launches consultation and tells no-one… consultation into ADR. CAA hadn’t informed stakeholders.

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ECJ ruling on flight delays: Consumer champion warns against third-party claim firms

European Court of Justice rules on airline delay compensation

For details on how to claim What to do when your flight is delayed

Decision in favour of passengers follows last year’s similar ruling by the Supreme Court

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) this morning ruled that airline passengers can claim compensation for delays caused by technical faults. You could be forgiven for thinking that this rule has already been passed last year. It was in fact the Supreme Court in the UK.

In October 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that consumers had 6 years to claim compensation for delays and upheld the ruling regarding that technical difficulties are not “extraordinary circumstances” for the purposes of a compensation claim [1]. The Dutch airline KLM had tried to argue that spontaneous technical issues are “extraordinary circumstances” and many cases have been on hold whilst the case was appealed at the ECJ.

The ruling demonstrates how poor the regulation is: so many claim cases around the EU have had to go to court, to the Supreme Court in the UK and now the European Court of Justice. Well-written regulation should shape the minimum standards and compensation rules but they have not been clear enough which has led to confusion and legal cases. Reform of the regulation is underway in Brussels, but progress has stalled due to disagreements between member states.

An increase in the already large number of compensation claims is now inevitable.

Helen Dewdney consumer campaigner and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! whilst welcoming another win for consumers says that, in her opinion, compensation should not be a set amount for each claim, it should be a percentage of the ticket price. She says:

“In some cases the compensation will be higher than the price of the ticket which is ridiculous and will result in only one thing, an increase in prices.” She also warns of the increase in number of no-win no-fee organisations claiming on behalf of people who have been delayed. “There is nothing that an organisation or lawyer can do regarding delayed or denied boarding that a consumer cannot do themselves and get 100% of the compensation figure (which varies on length of flight and delay).” (For details on what you need to know to claim compensation see here.)

Notes to editors:
[1] The decisions made in the Huzar v Jet2 and Dawson v Thomson cases confirmed that routine technical difficulties are not extraordinary circumstances. Ron Huzar was delayed for 27 hours on a Malaga to Manchester flight. The delay had been caused by faulty wiring and Jet2 had claimed that this was unforeseen and categorised as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’. In the Dawson v Thomson case, James Dawson was claiming for an eight-hour delay on a flight to the Dominican Republic in 2006; his claim was made in 2012. The airline refused to pay, citing the Montreal Convention, which limits claims to two years after an incident. On October 31st 2014 the Supreme Court upheld the rulings at appeal. Delays caused by technical problems cannot be categorised as ‘extraordinary’ circumstances and not liable for compensation and consumers have up to six years after the flight to make qualifying compensation claims. A judge in Liverpool county court threw out applications on the 25th February 2015 by Jet2, Ryanair, Flybe and Wizz Air to keep claims on hold until a case in Holland about technical delays (Van dear Kans v KLM) was decided. He stated that cases should be settled in line with existing passenger-rights rules.

BBC Breakfast 5th August 2015 flight delays