A hike in passenger compensation levels is a step closer after Europe's Council of Transport Ministers and the European Parliament came to a compromise over the issue.

A Conciliation Committee was set up to mediate between the two sides after Parliament adopted a number of amendments to proposals from the European Commission at the second reading stage. The committee consisted of 15 members of the Parliament and 15 representatives of the Council of Transport Ministers. The agreement now needs a majority vote in Parliament and a qualified voting majority from the transport ministers for the directive to be adopted.

The Association of European Airlines is still preparing its detailed response to the proposals, but is already taking a critical look at some of the amendments added in the second reading. For instance, it is likely to question the practicalities of giving each delayed passenger a free telephone call.

Ever since the proposals were put forward two years ago, airlines have complained that the ideas put the industry at a disadvantage compared with other modes of transport, such as trains. The committee says: 'This matter is dealt with in a declaration from the Commission stating its intention to make proposals to extend Community measures of passenger protection to other modes of transport.'

The amendments also include the right of reimbursement for passengers delayed for more than five hours if the journey no longer serves the purpose for which they were originally travelling.

The two sides agreed on a definition of cancelled flights as a planned flight on which at least one place was reserved. Passengers must now present themselves for check-in by the time stipulated by the carrier or at least 45min before the published departure time.

The proposals will see compensation levels of €250 ($290) for flights below 1,500km (930 miles); €400 for flights of 1,500-3,500km, and €600 for flights beyond this range. This compares with previous levels of €150 for flights below 1,500km and €300 beyond.

Airlines will be obliged to strike a deal with passengers willing to give up their seats on overbooked flights, and, in addition, are required to provide a choice between a meal/hotel accommodation/alternative flight, or reimbursement and an alternative flight.

Airlines have warned that the proposals could have some unforeseen effects, and could even put the interline system under unbearable strain as the complexities of proportioning compensation levels between different flights and carriers becomes too much to bear.


Source: Airline Business