Compromise between European Parliament and Commission will see compensation offered for delay or denied boarding

European airline bodies have cautiously welcomed a last-minute compromise hammered out between the European Parliament and the European Commission on passenger compensation and assistance.

The proposal to award payouts to any victims of denied boarding or delay was passed earlier this month after several rounds of intensive lobbying from industry, led by the European Regions Airline Association (ERA). Under the new bill, payouts have been settled and more exemptions added. Airlines have welcomed changes to the rules that clear airlines from compensation payouts for delays outside their control, such as weather, technical issues or strikes. The deadline for notifying passengers of any cancellation has also been extended to two weeks from one.

Loyola de Palacio, EC vice-president in charge of transport and energy, says the agreement "paves the way for completing and strengthening the existing rights".

The Association of European Airlines says the new proposal is an operationally "workable compromise". However, the cost burden could disadvantage EU carriers competing on transatlantic routes with US airlines, it warns, because of their high ratio of intra-EU flights.

The bill must now be approved by European transport ministers and the European Parliament before becoming law by mid-2005.

The ERA says the wider EU transport White Paper "European Transport Policy for 2010" presents a fragmented and incomplete plan that has an anti-airline agenda. The association has identified 37 specific points where EU legislation discriminates against air transport.

The European Parliament has threatened to take the EC to the European Court if it fails to halt "illegal transfer of airline passenger data to the USA". The US Transportation Security Administration has demanded that foreign airlines hand over profiles of airline travellers to the USA. However, under EU law, personal data can be passed on only after citizens give their consent.

Source: Flight International