ASH CLOUD: AEA resists joint call for passenger rights waiver

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Representatives of the low-cost, regional and charter airline sectors are collectively pressing for a waiver on European passenger rights legislation in order to fend off a potential cash-flow crisis.

But the group which represents the largest mainline European carriers is resisting joining the call.

Members of the European Regions Airline Association, the European Low Fares Airline Association, and the International Air Carrier Association are seeking a "firm commitment" from the European Commission to provide support to carriers affected by the volcanic ash crisis.

A spokeswoman for the ERA says the three groups are looking for a waiver to European legislation which requires airlines to accommodate passengers in the event of flight cancellations.

She says the situation created by the Icelandic volcano has "gone beyond a joke", because the open-ended nature of the event has placed a burden of unlimited liability on the airlines. While the carrier groups are "happy to continue abiding by the law", she adds, their members are "running out of money".

Given that the closure of European airspace was a governmental decision, the groups argue, the governments "cannot ignore the massive economic consequences".

But the Association of European Airlines has opted against joining the other airline groups' call. A spokesman for the AEA says the association feels it is "not appropriate".

He says that the European Commission has arranged high-level consultations which are providing a mechanism for the airlines' issues to be "properly discussed". While the AEA is not against a possible waiver of the passenger rights rules, the spokesman says there are a number of options which could be considered.