• Policy

Passenger Rights

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

In 2015, ICAO Council adopted a set of high-level, non-binding, non-prescriptive core principles on consumer protection, for use as policy guidance. The principles were developed by ICAO AIr Transport Regulations Panel (ATRP)
The ICAO Principles are a good starting step towards more harmonization and compatibility of consumer protection regulations around the world. However, in AACO's opinion, the ICAO principles should also accommodate for the following:

1.  National and regional passenger rights regimes to avoid extraterritoriality in their scope i.e. not to include flights of foreign carriers departing from countries that have consumer protection regulations 
2.  Regimes adopted by different states to be compatible as much as possible 
3.  Such regimes to allow the share of the liability of the inconvenience caused to the customer with all stakeholders responsible for the occurrence of that inconvenience.
In addition to having a clear text that recognizes extraordinary circumstances where airlines would be exempt from paying compensation.

 

 
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.

To view the latest draft of the material following the ACAC Consumer Protection Working Group meeting in April 2017, please click here.

EU Reg. 261/2004
Regulation EU 261/2004 in its current form is:

  • Highly punishing to the airlines, which would eventually affect connectivity.
  • Vague in many areas
  • Interpretations by court rulings are inconsistent
  • Some Interpretations have widened the original scope of the regulation
  • A number of interpretations have been unfair to the airlines and could potentially risk the safety of flights

 

Interpretative Guidelines of EU Reg. 261/2004 

Interpretative Guidelines published by the EC in June 2016 are a good step but not enough: While the interpretive guidelines were a good document that provides higher clarity to the regulation, they did not introduce new information or change the current state of the regulation. Hence, we continue to experience arising situations that require court interference. 

 

Revision of Regulation 261/2004
When the EC proposed a revision to the regulation, AACO had a cautious welcome to the revision; as whilst it introduced positive amendments to the 2004 regulation such as time limitations on care and assistance in circumstances beyond the airline control, the introduction of trigger times for delay compensation (in particular the 5 hours threshold), and the introduction of an annex clarifying “extraordinary circumstances”, the revision could have introduced much more improvements to the current regulation with the following:

 

General Concepts:
a)  Proportionality: compensation levels to be revisited to reflect the inconvenience caused to passengers only and not to be introduced as a punishment to airlines, while recognizing that burdening airlines with high costs would negatively affect connectivity and ticket prices.
b)  Sharing of liabilities: to introduce provisions that recognize that the responsibility for disruptions caused to passengers be shared with other stakeholders, where that applies, including manufacturers, ANSPs, ground handlers, airport operators, and others…. 
c)  Safety First: no compromise between safety & passenger rights protection.

 

And, of course, recognizing that airlines are highly incentivized to provide the best service to the customer as mentioned above.

Specific Issues for the revision of the regulation: 
a)  It is important to reinstate the message that safety comes first by specifying a clear list of “unexpected safety shortcomings” and revisiting the list of “extraordinary circumstances” to reflect this concept and to reflect the true nature of daily operations of airlines for ex. that a disruption of one flight could have an impact on a number of following flights and not only one. The lists to also clearly show, among other things, what is a technical defect beyond an airline’s control.
b)  The proposal for a 12 hours timeframe to provide rerouting to a passenger is too short; 24 hours is recommended excluding night-time operating bans. In addition, there should be a limit on cost or class of service. 
c)  Defining delay as to when arriving at the final destination is 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. Hence, it is recommended that delay is triggered per flight and not for the whole journey. 

 

To view the EC proposal please click here.

To view AACO’s comments on the proposal back in 2013, 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

 

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.

 

ICAO’s 2013 and 2016 assemblies 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 to ratify MC99. 

 

AACO 48th AGM Resolution on Passenger Rights (2015)
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.

 

AACO 49th AGM Resolution on Passenger Rights (2016)

AACO 49th AGM urged Arab governments and governments around the world to: 
1.  Dedicate adequate time for consultations with relevant stakeholders before the adoption of passenger rights regulations
2.  Give ample time for stakeholders between the date of adoption and the effective date of the regulations to prepare for the implementation of the regulations 
3.  Recognize that the responsibility for disruptions caused to passengers be shared with other stakeholders where that applies including manufacturers, ANSPs, ground handlers, airport operators, and others…
 
AACO 49th AGM as well urged the concerned under ICAO to look into adding the following principles to the core principles on consumer protection during 2017:
1.  National and regional passenger rights regimes to avoid extraterritoriality in their scope i.e. not to include flights of foreign carriers departing from countries that have consumer protection regulations 
2.  Regimes adopted by different states to be compatible as much as possible 
3.  Such regimes to allow the share of the liability of the inconvenience caused to the customer with all stakeholders responsible for the occurrence of that inconvenience.

  

To view the full resolution please click here

 

 

Last updated on 20 April 2017

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