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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 July 2006, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Big rise in air travel complaints
Passengers looking at flight information screens
Cancellations and delays prompted most complaints
Complaints made by air travellers soared last year, an official passenger watchdog group has said.

The Air Transport Users' Council (AUC) said the number of written complaints it received nearly trebled to 6,000.

The majority of the complaints were about cancellations and delays, while gripes about mislaid baggage also rose.

The AUC added that it had expected a rise in complaints after air passengers were granted new rights to compensation by the European Union.

Nevertheless, Tina Tietjen, the AUC's chairman, said that airlines clearly needed to raise their game.

"The main message coming out of our complaints work appears to be that company policy is still not consistently applied at ground level.

"There remain too many occasions when those suffering delays and cancellations are often not getting their full entitlements," Ms Tietjen added.

The number of complaints received by telephone had also increased from 3,514 in 2004/05 to 3,755 in 2005/06.

New rights

In February 2005, passengers were granted new rights to claim compensation if their flights were delayed or cancelled, or if they as individuals were moved on to a later flight.

The EU rules, which apply to all scheduled and charter flights, including budget airlines, set compensation according to length of the flight and the delay.

The EU decided to increase passenger compensation in a bid to deter airlines from deliberately overbooking flights.

Overbooking can often lead to "bumping" - when a passenger is moved to a later flight.

In addition, if a flight is cancelled or delayed for more than two hours through the fault of the airline, all passengers must be compensated.

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