New rules would allow passengers to refuse flights if carrier changes at short notice

Regional airlines are gearing up for another regulatory battle, this time over changes to a European Union air safety bill that may prevent short-notice wet-leasing.

Among sweeping reforms designed to give air passengers greater rights, the European Com­mis­sion in June put forward rules allowing people to opt not to travel on a flight if the operating carrier has changed, such as when substitute aircraft are used under aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) leases.

The bill will have its first reading in the European Parliament this week, but as part of a pre-session “clarification exercise”, its draftswoman, Christine de Veyrac, introduced a clause stating that the airline “shall inform no later than check-in” of any aircraft change.

However, the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) believes its members will be penalised because they make more use of wet leases than major carriers. Also, they check people in earlier if they interline with a network carrier on a long-haul flight. Additionally, the introduction of online and telephone check-in facilities by codeshare partners means passengers can be checked in as much as 24h before the flight, says Andrew Clarke, ERA policy director.

“Our members will change aircraft, sometimes involving a change of operator, after passengers have checked in and they should not find themselves in breach of regulations,” he says.

The ERA is seeking the deletion of the amendment, but it faces a challenge because the current European Parliament lacks members with an aviation background. The association says it supports the bill in principle and will offer a compromise allowing carriers to inform passengers of an aircraft change after check-in, but allow them to decline boarding.

  • MEPs are also expected to vote on the controversial passengers with reduced mobility bill, detailing the assistance to be given to disabled travellers at airports. Airline groups say the bill – which states that airports will provide wheelchair and other assistance and charge it to the airlines – is monopolistic.


Read Group Editor Kieran Daly's blog on why the European Commission needs clearer thinking on passenger rights

Source: Flight International