EC campaign puts agents in line for complaints

A new European customer rights campaign that threatens to inundate travel agents with complaints from airline passengers has prompted a demand for a rethink from Abta.

The European Commission  (EC) launched the summer-long campaign without consulting the industry and the association said the campaign advice on the airport posters about delayed or cancelled flights or lost luggage did not reflect its “interpretation of the regulations”.

The EC insisted: “Not all passengers are aware of what they are entitled to. People should contact their carrier or travel agent to get more information.”

Transport commission vice-president Siim Kallas said: “We hope that with eye-catching posters we can reach millions.”

Abta head of public affairs Luke Pollard described the campaign as “unhelpful” and said: “We are disappointed. The concerns of the industry have not been taken into account.

“The posters do not reflect our interpretation of the regulations and we don’t want confusion. We are asking the EC to review the campaign.

“The regulations on denied boarding were drafted for good reason, but were not identified as dealing with the closure of airspace [due to volcanic ash].”

The rules came into effect in 2005, but have been tightened by recent court judgments that limit the ability of airlines to justify a delay even when an aircraft has a technical problem.

The campaign material says even a delay of three hours may entitle passengers to “compensation identical to that offered when the flight gets cancelled” – meaning a refund or re-routeing with another carrier.

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