06 April 2007

Problems with Enforcement of EU Air Passenger Rights

On 4 April 2007 the European Commission (EC) released a 12-page communication (report) on the results and application of the EU air passenger rights regulation, noting in particular problems with low-cost carriers, and announced that it is giving member states another six months to make this legislation work.

A BBC report on this announcement notes the lack of a definition of "delay" in the EU regulation. No definition of "delay" is included in the 1929 Warsaw Convention on international air carrier liability (Article 19 refers) either and when this and subsequent amendments were consolidated in the 1999 Montreal Convention (again Article 19 refers) again no definition of "delay" was included. The same situation exists in Part 9B of the New Zealand Civil Aviation Act 1990 with respect to domestic delay. Back in 2004 the China Daily carried an interesting article on this subject noting the whether or not delay has occurred is generally considered on a case-by-case basis.

A number of countries collect and publish airline delay statistics. In the United States (where the Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics issues a monthly Air Travel Consumer Report) "on time" is defined as within 15 minutes of scheduled time. The Australian Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics uses the same 15 minute definition of "on time" in its reporting. UK punctuality statistics are published by the UK Civil Aviation Authority and this information is also available in a more user-friendly form on the Flightontime.info web site.

On 10 January 2007, following airline industry complaints, the European Ombudsman had criticised certain public information produced by the EC on air passenger rights as being inaccurate and misleading.

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