O’Leary hails ‘sensible’ UK post-Brexit air passenger rights proposals

Europe’s airline bosses are demanding the EU revise its air passenger rights regulation 261, with Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary pointing to UK proposals to revise airline delay compensation rules post-Brexit as a way forward.

However, the EU’s commissioner for transport told airline chiefs the commission “will not be diminishing” consumer rights.

Speaking at an Airlines for Europe (A4E) Aviation Summit in Brussels, O’Leary said: “The UK government is looking at changing Regulation 261 to something more sensible, to remove a set compensation amount.”

A UK government consultation on Aviation Consumer Policy Reform which closed on March 27 proposed changes to Regulation 261 rules for UK domestic flights.

The changes would tie flight delay compensation to the price of a ticket, with a sliding scale of payments based on the cost of travel for delays over an hour rather than the current set amount for delays of three hours plus.

However, other proposals would see airlines required to refund Atol holders for cancelled flights booked as part of a package holiday and the CAA given powers to fine carriers for failing to pay refunds within seven days.

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps hailed the proposals as “making the most of our Brexit dividend”.

O’Leary suggested he was loathe to find anything positive in Brexit but said: “If Britain makes some effective reform [of Regulation 261], it could put pressure on the EC to do something. There is some hope here.”

Carriers have been demanding the regulation be revised for years, but a review of the rules has stalled.

Now the airlines want “a list of the extraordinary circumstances” which lead to consumers’ compensation rights being waived so passengers know when they can claim compensation. At present, these are largely left up to courts to decide since they are unspecified in the regulation.

At the same, tour operators and travel agents want the regulation harmonised with package travel rules on refunds which require travel companies to reimburse consumers for cancelled holiday flights regardless of whether airlines refund them.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “Regulation 261 is so badly written. There is huge uncertainty about what constitutes ‘extraordinary circumstances’ [and] it never took into consideration mass cancellations.”

He argued: “It’s staggering that this has not moved forward. Regulation 261 was drafted in 2009. It was badly written then, before mass cancellations. Things need to get a move on.”

However, EU transport commissioner Adina-Ioana Valean told the A4E summit: “Passengers need to have rights.

“We are looking to improve Regulation 261. [But] what we do will not be in line with diminishing consumer rights.”

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