Denied-boarding compensation set to enter force in 2005

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Controversial European Commission (EC) legislation covering passenger compensation rights is likely to enter force in early 2005 after the European Parliament overwhelmingly gave final approval for the bill.

The Parliament backed amendments made in October following discussions between Parliament and European Council officials to resolve outstanding issues.

The new rules will enter into effect a year after publication in European Union’s Official Journal, which is likely to occur early next year. Parliament rejected Council recommendations that the rules be enforced within three months, to give airlines more time to prepare for the financial impact of the legislation.

New regulations replace existing rules dating back to 1991 and set standard compensation levels – in three different brackets, based on sector length – in cases of cancellations, long delays and denied boarding.

The legislation has drawn strong criticism from carriers and airline groups, notably among regional and low-fare carriers unhappy that compensation levels do not reflect ticket prices and that feeder carriers could face compensation claims covering the connecting long-haul sector as well.

European regulators are set to temper at least one of the criticisms – that the same rights are not applicable to other modes of transport – by extending the scheme.

“The EC has been asked to make proposals to extend these passenger-protection measures to modes of transport other than air, notably rail and sea transport,” says a European Parliament statement.

“[Members of the Parliament] took the view that it was irrational, unfair and a distortion of competition to compensate for denied boarding or a long delay of a [flight] between two European cities while not offering compensation in similar circumstances for a high-speed train journey between the same two cities or a Channel ferry between Dover and Calais.”