THE vast majority of air passengers are unaware of their rights to compensation and assistance for delays, cancellations and lost baggage when travel plans go wrong.
An EU-wide survey shows 71% of Europeans did not know their consumer rights, as airline customers, had been strengthened as a result of an EU directive in 2004.
Only 23% said they were aware of such legislation while 6% said they were uncertain about their actual entitlements in the event of disrupted flights.
Irish people are slightly more aware of air passengers rights than the EU average with 35% claiming to know about such legislation. However, this is down 4% from a similar survey conducted four years ago.
Overall, six out of 10 Europeans said they did not know their contractual rights and obligations when buying an airplane ticket.
The Eurobarometer poll showed there had been no significant change in general consumer awareness of air passenger rights since a similar survey was conducted in 2005.
The authors of the survey said the results suggested that airlines and the authorities had not done much over the last four years to improve passengers’ awareness of their contractual rights and obligations.
Even among Irish people who have flown in the previous 12 months, just 47% said they were aware of their rights to compensation and assistance when problems arose with flights, even though airlines are legally obliged to display notices about such entitlements at check-in areas in airports.
Only 17% of Irish air travellers said they had seen such notices.
Over half of all Europeans surveyed believed they receive satisfactory treatment when air travel does not go as planned and they face delays, cancellations or lost baggage. However, they also feel that compensation offered in such instances is inadequate.
In contrast, Irish air passengers are less complimentary about the treatment they receive from airlines in the event of problems with just 38% claiming they felt such treatment was satisfactory compared with the EU average of 52%.
Most air passengers regard lodging complaints as an efficient method of improving air travel, although less than half of those who actually suffered some inconvenience in the past year formally complained to their airline.
Among those who complained to an airlines, less than half believed it had been handled properly
A majority of European travellers are generally satisfied with the overall punctuality and comfort of flights but are critical of the information provided with when they suffer a disruption to their travel plans, especially with regard to compensation.
More than 1,000 air travellers from Ireland were surveyed as part of the poll of almost 27,000 people across the 27 EU member states.
The survey also revealed that a quarter of all Europeans have travelled by air in the past year. Not surprisingly because of Ireland’s status as an island nation, Irish people are the most frequent air travellers in the EU, with 58% having flown in the previous 12 months compared with the EU average of just 24%.
Some 17% of Irish air travellers said they had experienced a cancellation, a long delay or lost baggage in the past year.
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