Airlines get rule change on stranded passengers

An Icelandic volcano erupted in April 2010

Airlines will no longer be responsible for providing accommodation for an “indefinite period” to stranded passengers during natural or weather disasters.

Ryanair yesterday immediately welcomed a European Commission proposal to cap any European airline’s liability to three nights of accommodation for passengers.

The commission yesterday took steps to clarify exactly what consumers would be entitled to in the event of an eruption, such as the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull.

“Ryanair welcomes the proposed capping of the accommodation provision to three nights — given it currently covers an indefinite period — and the proposed extension of the threshold in compensation delays from three to five hours, which will allow for more flexible operations and help prevent cancellations,” said the airline’s head of communications, Robin Kiely.

The change in the legislation came about as the commission accepted airlines’ fears that a prolonged weather event could end up bankrupting some carriers.

“Under current rules, air carriers must provide refreshments, meals, and accommodation for an indefinite period of time, potentially threatening their financial survival,” the commission said in a paper outlining the proposal.

Its vice-president for transport, Siim Kallas, said the commission had been trying to balance between needs of the passenger and allowing airlines flexibility.

“We know that the real priority for stranded passengers is just to get home,” said Mr Kallas. “So our focus is on information, care and effective rerouting. The aim is to get passengers where they want to be as quickly as possible while giving the airlines the time they need to sort problems out.”

However, passengers are now entitled to:

*In the event of long delays, cancelled travel, or denied boarding, passengers have the right to the reimbursement of the full ticket price;

*The right to be correctly informed of the ticket price and the circumstances of their journey in a timely and relevant manner before the journey as well as during and after the travel in case of disruption.

In the event of long delays, cancelled travel, or denied boarding, passengers have the right to receive an alternative service of transport, as soon as possible, or to rebook at their convenience.

Under certain conditions, in case of long delayed or cancelled travel, and always in case of denied boarding in air, passengers are entitled to a standardised financial compensation for the trouble suffered.

Where the air carrier cannot ensure the rerouting within 12 hours on its own services, it must offer rerouting with other air carriers or other transport modes where available.

Ryanair did, however, raise issue with the rerouting provision which it claimed would discriminate against low-cost carriers.

“The proposed 12-hour rerouting threshold is too short as it will unfairly and disproportionately increase costs for low-fare airlines which do not participate in airline alliance programmes,” Mr Kiely said.


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