[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
New EU law over air misery
An EU law guaranteeing big payouts for passengers left stranded by airlines has been voted in despite opposition from budget airlines.

Passengers sick of being bumped off flights because of over-booking or cancellation will be given greatly enhanced rights to cash compensation.

The European Parliament backed the tougher rights for air travellers in a formal vote earlier on Wednesday.

For the first time, passengers hit by delays will also be able to get their air fares refunded.

Passengers who are denied boarding because of over-booking already have the right to choose between an alternative flight and a full refund in addition to compensation.

The new rules will roughly double the level of compensation.

For short-haul flights, the figure will be 250 euros ($286;172), rising in stages to 600 euros ($686;413) for long-haul flights.

Passengers whose trips are cancelled will have the same entitlement and, for the first time, even delays will be covered.

Compensation levels

Those having to wait longer than two hours for a short-haul flight and four hours for a long-haul one will be able to get their money back.

The new compensation levels have been bitterly criticized by low-cost airlines, who complain the payouts could be many times the value of a ticket.

Ryanair and EasyJet are among those who have been regularly criticised for poor responses to customer complaints over delays and cancellations.

But their objections - that they will be forced to increase fares - have not been heeded.

The new measures will come into force in little over a year's time.

Read a selection of your comments below.

The check in desk girl did not know the existing EU rules
Peter, Uzbekistan
I was bumped off a Friday mid afternoon BA flight from Brussels to Manchester and put on another flight three hours later. The check in desk girl did not know the existing EU rules and offered me a phone call to UK plus a 25 voucher. I requested the Supervisor and asked her for sight of a copy of the EU rules. Result - full cash compensation plus an upgrade to Business class.
Peter, Uzbekistan

As a frequent traveller I accept delays as part of the travel experience. They are not at all pleasant, but why should an airline get penalised for delaying my flight while they look for passengers who are still drinking in the bar, or locate an extra bag for security? What happens in weather related delays? I expect to be treated with dignity and honesty in a delay and the airlines that do, get my money. Life is uncertain but getting monetary compensation is not always the best, or fair, solution for traveller and airline.
Bruce , New Zealand

In 1999 me and three friends were asked to not board a (overbooked) KLM flight to Bali. In return we got a 250 euro compensation, free choice of any hotel in Amsterdam (All costs paid by KLM) and a seat the next day. Of course we took this offer gladly as our holiday would be 4 weeks and the cash would be sufficient to pay our hotel in Bali for the whole stay! Good service and adequately solved at the check-in counter. The next day we left on time, well rested and on 'medium' budget in stead of lowbudget! Great!
bert, holland

KLM and Lufthansa already pay 300 Euros for bumping you off a flight
Andy, UK
KLM and Lufthansa already pay 300 Euros (in vouchers) for bumping you off a flight, 50 Euros more than the new EU measures. I don't think that these measures will make any difference to the amount of passengers bounced off a flight, Lufthansa bump lots of people flying Heathrow to Duesseldorf on a Friday evening and paying 300 Euros in compensation seems to be neither here nor there to them.
Andy, UK

An American Airlines attendant tried to tell me that I was on the standby list for my weekly flight from Southern California to Boston. I had purchased 4 weekly tickets in advance, paying full fare and getting confirmed seat reservations. I had well over 100,000 air miles logged with American Airlines that year. I immediately expressed my displeasure, cancelled all of my reservations and switched to another airline. American Airlines didn't care one bit.
Galen Dean, USA

I recently was delayed by more than 4 hours on a flight with KLM back to Mexico due to the fact there was a fault with one engine which they were unable to repair and had to substitute the aircraft. With these new rules KLM would have been under pressure to short circuit safety checks to avoid the compensation. I believe that some overhaul is necessary but not to the extent that safety is compromised and as is typical of this type of "populist" legislation it has not been fully thought through.
Derek Starling, Mexico

My British Air Cairo-to-London flight was delayed eight hours. After much insistence I was "allowed" to take a ready Egypt Air flight. Though it had several seats available, BA did not offer this to other passengers, giving them only an apology letter.
Lawrence de Bivort, USA

The desk personnel made it clear that our problem was not of interest to them
Stephanie vL Henkel, USA
Two colleagues and I were returning from a business trip to Anaheim, CA, via the Hostile Skies of United. When we reached Chicago, we were told our flight to Manchester, NH, had been cancelled because of weather. But I notices that all other carriers were flying east. (The real problem was a pilot slowdown in protest of enforced overtime.) That was not the first lie we were handed. The desk personnel were extremely rude and made it clear that our problem was not of interest to them, and that the only way we could continue was on a standby basis. We were stranded in Chicago's O'Hare Airport for 18 hours - and we were not allowed to access our luggage for a change of clothing. What jerks!
Stephanie vL Henkel, USA

British Airways offered me a return flight anywhere in the world as compensation for a 24-hour delay. Big deal. The special reservations number is jammed. If I do get through I promptly get cut off.
Ali, USA

When I was 15, travelling as an unaccompanied minor, I was stranded in New York when my overbooked onward flight decided to bump me. I think they thought I was a soft touch. Someone advised me not to show my US visa, so the State Department had to look after me. And the airline which flew me to NY - a budget carrier - sorted everything out with admirable efficiency.
Michael Grazebrook, France (ex-UK)

Some of the people trying to get information from the Iberia ground staff almost got arrested
TR, Spain
Two years ago this very month I was held in the departure lounge of Malaga Airport for approximately 19 hours without any information, any reasons, any apology or any chance to get another flight. Sadly, I was travelling home to my father's funeral. Hours went by and no sign of a rep and no sign of our luggage. Some of the people trying to get information from the Iberia ground staff almost got arrested - me included. Security guards were called by the staff who hadn't a clue and didn't care. Old people, women with very young children were pushed out of the way and threatened. It was very frightening. I found out later that an Icelandic company owned the 747 aircraft which had engine problems and was grounded - we were informed of this the next afternoon during the flight. About 50% of the poor fools like myself were left stranded in the departure lounge. Naturally the only place to get refreshments closed at midnight.

If I had known that there was to be this delay I would have bought another ticket and flown home as soon as possible. As it was my nephew travelled across country twice to collect me from Manchester airport. Let's hope this year it will be different - somehow I doubt it.
TR, Spain

I've been offered 3 from Continental for a 2 hour delay (for food basically), which meant that I missed my onward connection in the USA. Although I was lucky to catch a later connecting flight, over 40 (from other flights) were not so lucky. I imagine this won't affect the big scheduled airlines so much. But budget airlines will start to have to buck up their ideas a bit - having planes on standby, longer turnaround times, etc. I'd much rather pay a few more pounds for a more reliable service than 1 a seat for a plane that might or might not turn up.
Geoff M, UK

Right idea, wrong solution. The law should be that if you have a ticket, then you are entitled to catch the flight -- you cannot be involuntarily bumped. Then, if an airline overbooks, it's now up to the airline to offer a sufficient inducement to persuade some would-be passengers not to fly. Maybe $20 is enough, maybe it needs $500 - let the passengers decide.
Edmund, UK

When tickets are not flexible, the seat is paid for, whether the passenger shows up or not
Roger Killick, UK
When tickets were fully flexible, there "might" be a reason for overbooking. When tickets are not flexible, which is increasingly the case, the seat is paid for, whether the passenger shows up or not. If airlines overbook in these circumstances, then they are selling the same seat twice, which is inexcusable.
Roger Killick, UK

During a Swiss Air Flight not only was I bumped but instead of the original destination of Milano Italy from Zurich, I arrived in Lugano which is over an hour from Milano and I was bussed to the airport. Plus to add insult to injury they lost my luggage.
Denny , Riyadh

On an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Manchester I was one of the lucky 230 or so who got a seat - well over 50 were left stranded due to severe overbooking! Offers of $500 to stand down were being made, but on further investigation this turned out to be a $500 voucher off the full published economy fare of a future AA flight. The compensation given doesn't always translate into hard currency!
John Evans, UK

This idea is completely idiotic. Fares will go up as carriers build expected levels of compensation into their cost models. Extra time contingencies will get added into schedules reducing services. Higher fares and slower services will deter passengers and revenues will fall. This is just a recipe for a further downturn in an already dampened business.
Alastair Ross, Scotland

Airlines just do not care about passengers' time
Marc Vanmarsenille, Stansted, UK
Recently a 4pm flight was cancelled by Ryanair. No explanation was given. I was put on an 8pm flight without any apologies or compensation and according to the staff this re-booking was 'good news'. Airlines just do not care about passengers' time.
Marc Vanmarsenille, Stansted, UK

I was bumped off a Virgin Express flight from Brussels to Heathrow. They made me pay an extra 25 for the next flight! What could I do? Of course this has put me entirely off these so called 'budget' airlines.
Barry Smith, UK

I was bumped off a flight when flying back from Newark to Madrid when I lived in Spain. I was more than happy though as I was entitled to $900 in vouchers from the airline and I boarded a flight five hours later.
Andy, UK

This is anti-competitive. Everyone knows that buying a ticket from a low cost airline probably does not carry the same safeguards as flying with say BA, but that's the deal. The public have flocked to this particular business model, and are now being told that it is no longer available. The big carriers must be delighted
Bruce Taylor, UK

Over booking flights is common practice with airlines, and Friday travelling is a nightmare. They end up by offering you alternate travel arrangements, usually an overcrowded coach. And this is written into their terms and conditions, so you have no comeback if you accept it. I am so used to it now, that I no longer bother to complain, instead just go straight to the car hire desk, and pick up whatever is left. Your ticket is valid for a year so you use it next time.
Paul, UK

Great news, now how about trains, ambulances and buses?

The BBC's Dominic DiNatale
"European airlines will also have to face published performance scoreboardds"

Easyjet passengers stage sit-in
29 Jul 02  |  Europe
The passengers are revolting
29 Jul 02  |  UK News
Air travel hit by strike chaos
19 Jun 02  |  Europe
Q&A: Air passengers' rights
12 Feb 03  |  Business

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific