Proliferation of Passenger Rights Regimes
Proliferation of passenger rights regulations has always put burdens and resulted in confusion to airlines and passengers alike. In some cases, such proliferation results in discrimination between passengers travelling on the same flight, and could also result in harming connectivity and increasing ticket prices; hence, AACO has supported IATA’s core principles on consumer protection that were adopted at IATA 69th Annual General Meeting and is as well in support of the development of core principles at ICAO level that would bring more harmonization to the different regulations adopted by various states, provided that these principles are in line with IATA’s principles and would bring a balance between passenger rights and industry competitiveness.
As a general view, passenger rights regulations such as the ones in the EU and the US add complexities, ambiguities, burdens and have a track record of subsequent court cases. Such regulations have also increased the cost of tickets as airlines had to reflect the cost of abiding to these regulations in ticket prices. Alternatively, regulations such as the ones in Singapore, Australia and Kuwait have proven to secure the rights of passengers with a major reduction in passenger complaints while at the same time benefiting the consumer with reduced ticket prices.
ICAO’S 2013 Assembly
Work is being done under the ICAO umbrella in order to bring more harmony to the different regulations developed by various states. This follows ICAO’s 2013 Assembly resolution that requested the Council to develop, in the short term, a set of high-level, non-binding, non-prescriptive core principles on consumer protection, for use as policy guidance, which strike an appropriate balance between protection of consumers and industry competitiveness and which take into account the needs of States for flexibility, given different State social, political and economic characteristics; these core principles should be consistent with existing instruments, in particular that of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, adopted in Montréal on 28 May 1999.
ICAO’s ATRP is the entity working on implementing this resolution. In AACO’s opinion, the principles reached at the ATRP so far are a good starting step towards more harmonization and compatibility of consumer protection regulations around the world. In particular AACO supports the below concepts from the ATRP principles:
- Regulations should strike an appropriate balance between protection of consumers and industry competitiveness.
- Should take into account States' different social, political, and economic characteristics, without prejudice to the security and safety of aviation
- National and regional consumer protection regimes should:
- reflect the principle of proportionality
- allow for the consideration of the impact of massive disruptions,
- be consistent with the international treaty regimes on air carrier liability established by the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air (Warsaw, 1929) and its amending instruments, and the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air (Montréal, 1999).
- The ATRP guidance on passenger rights before, during and after travel is also a good guidance for states to include in their regulations.
The ATRP principles however should ensure that application of any regulation should avoid extraterritoriality.
ACAC’S Guiding Material on Consumer Protection
ACAC Air Transport Committee has developed a draft guiding regulation on consumer protection that Arab states can use when they want to develop their own regulations on passenger rights. AACO had a number of comments on the material developed by ACAC. These comments were prepared by AACO’s AWG Consumer Protection Subgroup and shared with ACAC, whereby AACO participates in ACAC’s working group in charge of developing the material. AACO’s participation in ACAC’s working group comes after an ACAC AGM resolution that asked ACAC’s Air transport Committee to revisit the provisions of the material and AACO’s subsequent comments, and to invite AACO to the meetings of the working group responsible for developing the consumer protection guiding material.
To view AACO comments on ACAC’s Draft Regulation on Consumer Protection please click here.
Revision of EU Reg. 261/2004
As the debate is still uncompleted at the Parliament and Council levels for possible scenarios of a revised air passenger rights regulation, AACO has communicated with the EU institutions to highlight concerns on issues that could lead to more burdens on airlines and even more confusion to passengers and airlines alike.
One of the major issues in the EC proposal is defining a delay when arriving at final destination. Such a definition of delay is going to be:
- difficult to implement
- opens room for ambiguity
- would hold an on time carrier liability it is not responsible for
- could have a negative impact on interlining, and
- Could have extra-territorial application in some cases.
A second issue is the partial ban of the no-show policy which would deprive airlines to condition the use of their round-trip tickets, as they would be forced to adjust their promotional prices of round-trip tickets to the higher prices of trips in the other direction.
Moreover, this policy could have extra-territorial application, whereby for non-EU carriers, the regulation applies only to flights departing the EU i.e. on a return flight of a roundtrip starting in a non-EU country. However that roundtrip is most probably sold under a contract established according to the rules of that country where the law allows airlines and passengers to enter contracts requiring the passenger to use the onward flight before the return.
To view the EC proposal please click here.
To view AACO’s comments on the proposal, please click here.
US DoT Proposed Consumer Rules III
A consultation on the “US Consumer Rules III” was issued end of May 2014. The Consultation mainly seeks input on how best to give passengers the ability to know complete information on fares and certain core ancillaries when purchasing through either the direct (web) or indirect (online and brick and mortar agent) channel. One of the major proposals of the DOT is to request carriers to sell core ancillary services through the indirect channel as they do on their websites.
AACO, under the umbrella of AACO Aeropolitical Watch Group, prepared a response to the consultation and submitted it to the US DOT. To view AACO’s response, please click here.
Montreal Convention 1999
MC99 provides a modern, uniform and workable system for carrier liability in cases of:
- death or injury to passengers
- delay, loss or damage to baggage
- delay, loss or damage to cargo
The Montreal Convention 1999 was adopted in 1999 by ICAO and entered into force 2003. The Convention established a modern, fair and effective regime to govern airline liability to passengers and shippers on international flights; however, only 54% of Parties to the Chicago Convention have ratified it, leaving in place a complex patchwork of potentially applicable liability regimes.
Universal adoption of the Montreal Convention 1999 as the single universal liability regime for international carriage by air will deliver wide-ranging benefits to passengers and shippers and provide greater certainty to the airline industry on the rules governing their liability.
- Benefits to Passengers: Sensible and fair rules for death and injury, makes available full compensation, ends arbitrary limits, Loss to baggage and delay simplified, Indexed limits/thresholds, Consumer friendly – can claim in five jurisdictions, and Allows immediate assistance payments.
- Benefits to Cargo: Unbreakable limit for cargo, MC99 permits substitution of air waybills by other means preserving a record of carriage.
- Benefits to Governments: Universal ratification of MC99 ensures that citizens are covered by a fair and modern liability regime wherever they are flying in the world. MC99 also gives Governments the opportunity to support economic growth by enabling the use of electronic documents in the air cargo supply chain.
ICAO’s 2013 Assembly urged Contracting States that have not yet become parties to the International Air Services Transit Agreement (IASTA) and the Montréal Convention of 1999, to give urgent consideration to so doing;
AACO cooperates with IATA to urge Arab states through the Arab Civil Aviation Commission (ACAC) to ratify MC99.
AACO 48 AGM Resolution on Passenger Rights
AACO 48th AGM that was held in Jeddah on 29 November – 2 December 2015 agreed unanimously on its Resolution on Passenger Rights which called upon ICAO to further work on the principles developed by the ICAO ATRP and adopted by the ICAO Council to include material on avoiding extraterritoriality and ensuring compatibility between passenger rights regimes. The AGM also called upon Arab states to look into the Consumer Protection Safety Nets and Caveats template (that was developed by AACO AWG Consumer Protection subgroup), when developing passenger rights regimes. This document gathers best practices of airlines in giving passengers their rights and could be used as relevant guidance to governments if they wish to develop passenger rights regimes. The document is based on ICAO and IATA principles on consumer protection.
Last updated on 4 December 2015