Safe and secure flights in the EU

Transport - 07-07-2009 - 11:57
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Runway, Zaventem-Brussels Airport, Belgium. © European Commission.

Safety and passengers rights are paramount in the EU

You arrive at the airport ready for your flight - but upon arrival you find the flight has been overbooked leaving you waiting for another one. Even worse, there are no connecting flights and you could be stranded half way to your destination. With air travel so popular it is worth knowing what guarantees your ticket provides. The European Parliament has been active in protecting the rights of air passengers. As holiday season starts we assess the obligations of airlines.

The EU has long fought to ensure fair civil air-traffic competition and adequate protection for air travellers with legislation focused on flight safety, accessibility, general rights and fair pricing.
No more "flying coffins"
The EP in general and its Transport Committee in particular have been active in the creation of an EU-wide "blacklist" of unsafe airlines. Tragic accidents in EU skies made a list of airlines not meeting international safety standards a priority.
The blacklist was agreed by Parliament and EU ministers in December 2005. The list of banned airlines is updated by the European Commission each quarter and if you are planning to travel to more exotic locations, where you will be beyond EU protection, it is worth checking it out.
Equal opportunities for all
The EU is also strengthening the rights of disabled air passengers. In December 2005 MEPs passed legislation that improves the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air. They can not be refused transportation on the grounds of their disabilities. Also, they have to be given − without additional charge − assistance to meet their particular needs at airports.  
New rules will apply from the middle of 2008. Many airlines and airports already ensure full assistance, but must be notified of special needs at least 48 hours before departure.
Your rights
Air travellers also have increased rights in cases of denied boarding, cancellation, delays, baggage loss and accidents. Airlines are obliged to offer assistance, accommodation or even financial compensation. Anyone refused their rights should immediately complain to the airline operating the flight and eventually to the relevant national enforcement body. For example if you flight cancelled or overbooked and you are denied boarding you may be entitled to compensation between € 125 and € 600 depending on flight distance and the delays incurred when rerouted.
There are also plans to protect consumers from unfair practices by improving air ticket price transparency. Some carriers hide real costs under "€1 ticket" advertising, which fail to mention airport taxes, credit card and booking fees, fuel or luggage surcharges.
Transparent Prices
Since November 2008 passengers can get the full picture when looking for a reasonably priced plane ticket. Following a Regulation adopted by the European Parliament in July 2008, passengers are able to see at a glance exactly what they have to pay for their tickets. In their information and advertisement about fares, airlines have to include all taxes, fees and charges added to the basic ticket price.
MEPs also adopted a Directive that establishes common rules for airport charges and which aims to prevent individual airports from abusing a dominant position on the market.
Security on the ground an in the air
The European Parliament adopted a new regulation that aims to ensure a high level of aviation security throughout the EU. It lays down common rules and standards, such as screening of passengers and cabin baggage, access control and aircraft security checks.
For the first time, in-flight security measures such as access to the cockpit, unruly passengers and in-flight security officers ('sky marshals') are addressed at European level. Parliament insisted that if such security personnel is taken on board it must be have undergone a specific training and selection procedure.
REF.: 20060727STO09976