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Airlines rapped on passenger rights rules


BRUSSELS, Belgium— The European Commission has attacked airlines for failing to sufficiently adopt the air passenger rights regulation.

The E.C. presented a report that said that some progress has been made since the introduction of the regulation two years ago.

But it also said that further "important steps" should be taken to ensure that airlines apply the rules more consistently and that these rules are better enforced by member states.

"Although there is no doubt that air passengers enjoy better protection today, we must make sure that airlines and member states fully comply with their obligations", said Jacques Barrot, Commission Vice-President in charge of transport.

"The Commission will give them (member states) six months to make the air passengers regulation work and will provide them with full support in that process," he added.

Stranded passengers now have specific rights but they are still in a weaker position than airlines, said the commission.

Airlines often do not inform passengers about their rights when their flights are disrupted even though the regulation obliges them to do so, it added.

The commission therefore said that further work is needed in a number of areas including: improved enforcement, clarification of the interpretation of certain aspects of the Regulation, more clarity between delays and cancellations as different rights are awarded to the passengers depending on the circumstances, and enhancement of the role of the national enforcement bodies that oversee the application of the common rules.

The commission said that during the next six months it will intensify cooperation with the national enforcement bodies and airlines in order to achieve better results.

"If the final outcome remains unsatisfactory, the commission will initiate infringement procedures against member states. Should these contacts and procedures fail to reach satisfactory results, the commission could consider amending the current regulation," it warned.

The regulation introduced new rules on compensation and assistance for air passengers in the event of denied boarding, cancellations, long delays and involuntary downgrading.

The regulation requires airlines to provide passengers with assistance such as accommodation, refreshments, meals and communication facilities, offer re-routing and refunds, pay compensation, and proactively inform passengers about their rights under the regulation, depending upon circumstances.