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Boost for passenger rights in Europe post-Covid

29 November 2023, 18:58 CET
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Boost for passenger rights in Europe post-Covid

Train platform - Image by 652234 from Pixabay

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission adopted a series of proposals Wednesday to strengthen the rights of passengers in Europe in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis and the bankruptcy of the Thomas Cook travel group.

The new rules clarify rules on reimbursement when flights or multimodal journeys are booked via an intermediary, so that passengers are better protected against cancellations. They also provide for smoother journeys, especially those involving different travel services or transport modes, ensuring that passengers have access to direct support, and enhanced real-time information, for example on delays and cancellations. Special attention is paid to the needs of passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility to address the switch between transport modes and improve quality assistance where needed.

On passenger rights, passengers travelling by air, rail, ship or bus are already entitled to rerouting, reimbursement, compensation and/or assistance (depending on the circumstances) if travel is disrupted. Nevertheless, gaps in the rules remain, says the EU executive, while shortcomings in implementation and enforcement are preventing passengers from fully benefiting from these rights.

The proposal for a revision of the Regulations on Passenger Rights strengthens the enforcement mechanisms and introducing rules for air passengers who booked their flights via an intermediary, including on reimbursement. The proposal on passenger rights in the context of multimodal journeys also sets out for the first time, new rules to protect passengers using different types of transport, like buses, trains, and planes, all in one trip. Passengers will enjoy better information rights before and during such travels, including on minimum connecting times between different transport services. In addition, where they bought the multimodal journey under one transport contract, they will be entitled to assistance by the carrier in the event of missed connections. Special attention is paid to the needs of passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility. Persons with reduced mobility who switch from one transport mode to another during their journey will be assisted at connecting points by carriers and terminal operators when they travel under a single contract of carriage or when they travel through multimodal passenger hubs. If an airline obliges a passenger with disabilities or a person with reduced mobility to travel accompanied by someone because the passenger needs assistance to comply with aviation safety requirements (e.g. to fasten the seatbelt), the airline will be obliged to transport the accompanying person free of charge, and when practical, seat this person next to the passenger they are assisting. This right already exists when travelling by rail, ship or bus/coach.

For package travellers, proposed amendments will provide stronger and clearer rights for travellers and clarify the obligations and responsibilities of package organisers. Some of the new rules relate to:

  • When it comes to refunds, there is a chain of service providers, package organisers and travellers. Travellers will continued to be entitled to a refund within 14 days. This will be facilitated because package organisers, most of whom are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), will have the right to a refund from service providers within 7 days. The fact that they get their refund within one week, enables them to in turn to refund their clients within two weeks in total.
  • Downpayments made by travellers for packages may not be higher than 25% of the package price, except for when organisers face costs justifying a higher downpayment, for example, because they have to pay the full ticket price to the airline upfront. Organisers may not ask for the total payment earlier than 28 days before the start of the package.
  • Travellers who are being offered a voucher will receive clear information that they may insist on a refund and will be informed on the characteristics of the voucher before accepting it. Such vouchers will be refunded automatically if not used before the end of their validity period. Moreover, vouchers and refund rights will be covered by insolvency protection.
  • Clearer Information: Holidaymakers will receive clear information on whether a combination of travel services constitutes a package, who is liable if there are problems, and on their rights as package travellers.

Regarding multimodal travel, this can reduce overall transport emissions by allowing travellers to choose the most efficient and sustainable mode of transport. The revision of Delegated Regulation on EU-wide multimodal travel information service (MMTIS) will make it easier for passengers to find via travel information services real-time information on different transport modes and access real-time updates during their journey, for example on delays and cancellations.

2023 Proposal to amend the Package Travel Directive

Webpage - Package travel directive

Revision of EU passenger rights Regulations - guide

Q&A on the revision of Delegated Regulation on EU-wide multimodal travel information service (MMTIS) and a common European mobility data space

Q&A on revision of Package Travel Directive


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