EU Reg 261/2004 the debate goes on

Progress Report presented by the European Council

The proposal for a new regulation, an effort to replace the existing EU Regulation 261/2004 continues to cause debate at the Council of the European Union.  During the Latvian Presidency huge strides have been made, the Council and the Working Party on Aviation have had 40 meetings and achieved a great deal. Key has been finding agreed solutions to the dispute over what constitutes a technical issue and whether airlines can use this as a reason not to pay compensation to delayed passengers.  However, it is now clear that the different member countries are still unable to reach a consensus on a new look passenger rights regulation.

What are the issues?

The issues upon which no one member state can agree remain the same, namely the diverging views of the UK and Spain over the thorny issue of Gibraltar. In addition, the different European countries are unable to see eye to eye on the length of delay before passengers can claim compensation and whether they are entitled to recompense due to delays caused by missed connections.

What is the UK view?

The UK believes that the new thresholds for compensation proposed by the European Commission should be adopted – this means that claims for flight delay compensation could only be made after a 5, 9 or 12 hour delay depending on the length of the flight and the distance travelled.  Another sticking point is that the UK doesn’t support the view that air passengers should be paid compensation if their flight connection is missed. This would mean a big step backwards for passengers and the rights they presently benefit from under the current regulation.

What was the outcome?

At today’s Council meeting the Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc said that while there were ongoing discussions regarding a proposal for a new regulation, the current Regulation stands, so, the decisions made by the European Court of Justice must be upheld. Luxembourg, who are next in line to take up the presidency, have already suggested that they cannot promise that there will be any conclusions during their tenure. Their statement is based on the fact that the Regulation has to date proved complex and thus it has been difficult for the member states to reach a consensus.

Good news for delayed air passengers

For airline passengers this means that they can continue to enjoy the current Regulation 261/2004 and be confident that they will receive a high consumer protection for delays of more than three hours, cancellations and missed connections.

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