The European Union has proposed new legislation that would boost airline passenger rights. The measure would compel airlines to provide information and benefits when flights are delayed.
Under the new rules proposed on Wednesday and intended to take effect next year, passengers would be entitled to know what is happening after a 30-minute flight delay. They would also have a right to food and water after two hours of waiting - even if already on board the plane, and airlines would be forced to provide alternative travel routes within 12 hours.
"We know that the real priority for stranded passengers is just to get home," said EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas at a press conference Wednesday in Brussels. "So our focus is on information, care and effective rerouting."
The rules - which need approval from the European Parliament and member states - would only apply to passengers outside of the EU if they were flying on European carriers, the commissioner added. The proposals are not likely to take effect before 2014.
Improving existing law
The EU passed major legislation on passenger rights eight years ago, but said that existing rights needed to be strengthened because travelers "can have difficulty claiming them and feel frustrated when air carriers do not appear to apply them."
The commission said that the rules were also necessary to close the legal loopholes and grey areas that airlines often take advantage of when customers file complaints.
A recent survey in Germany found that more than 20 percent of passengers received no response after filing a complaint with an airline, the commission said. Only 2 to 4 percent of passengers surveyed in Denmark, meanwhile, received compensation to which they were entitled.
"It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper," Kallas said. "We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters most - when things go wrong."
The Geneva-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) objected to the proposal obligating airlines to provide passengers with an alternate route after a 12-hour delay, including on other carriers.
"The ticket price paid and the cost of re-routing should be related," said IATA CEO Tony Tyler. "If your Bic pen doesn't work, you don't get a Mont Blanc as compensation."
dr/rc (dpa, AFP, AP)