Air Passenger Rights in the European Community

University essay from Lunds universitet/Juridiska institutionen

Abstract: The travel industry has seen an overwhelming growth concerning air passenger numbers in recent decades. In the same period of time the European Community passed a series of legislative measures to provide air passengers with essential rights. In this thesis those different sets of rules accompanied by case law and literature shall be examined. The first step taken was the Package Travel Directive 90/314. Although travel packages may comprise a number of different services, air transfer is usually included. The Directive establishes several duties for the organizer and/or retailer of a package. The most important measures are the requirement of a minimum standard of information, the stipulation of liability rules and the travelers' protection in case of insolvency of the tour operator. As more than 15 years have passed since the Directive has been adopted, initiatives have been started to reform the Directive. However, the main task is on the member states to make their implementing laws more water-tight. During recent years the Montreal Convention replaced the old Warsaw Convention dealing with airline liability for damage to passengers, baggage and cargo. In the Community the Convention is applicable in conjunction with Regulation 2027/97. A system of liability has been established which provides for different limits of liability and options of exoneration depending on the kind of damage occurred. Besides some amendments that should be made some gaps remain in this system, which are to be filled by national courts. Therefore the creation of a comprehensive single standard for Europe is unlikely in the near future. The Regulation 261/2004 presents a milestone in European air passenger protection. It has been in force for one year by now. The regulation deals with denied boarding, cancellation and delay. If the booked flight is heavily delayed the passenger should be assisted. In case of denied boarding and cancellations he may also claim fixed amounts of compensation from the airlines. The Regulation especially aims to punish deliberate overbooking practices of many airlines. In January the ECJ confirmed the validity of the regulation after it had been challenged by two major airline associations. The author agrees with this judgment, but he also makes proposals for amendments which could lead to an even more balanced legislation. The European Commission especially focused on the rights of persons with reduced mobility, including handicapped, old and very young passenger. Accordingly a regulation is already being processed and expected to enter into effect by 2008. Regulation 2111/05 introduced a blacklist of such carriers that are considered to be unsafe. However, this blacklist seems to be incomplete as it includes exotic airlines only. The last chapter is dedicated to the state of air passengers' data protection in the EC. European airlines collect data from their passengers, the so called passenger name records (PNR), which fall under the scope of the Data Protection Directive 95/46. Of special interest is the agreement between the U.S and the Community on transfer of such PNR. This agreement is likely to declared void by the ECJ soon. Concluding the level of air passenger rights in the European Community appears quite satisfactory and balance. Therefore only minor amendments should be made to legislation. The author identifies the lack of information to be the main problem. Here it is the air passenger himself that needs to change his habits and collect more information prior to air transfer.

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