Ian Hudghton MEP today welcomed a vote at the European Parliament, in favour of improving proposals by the European Commission to give compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.

The European Parliament position agreed upon today ensures that all airports that host more than 1.5 million passengers per year have contingency plans in the event of mass cancellations to provide them with information and assistance.

For the first time, a definite right to compensation will be founded if a flight is delayed by several hours. This right is triggered if a flight of less than 3500km is delayed by 3 hours, if a flight of 3500-6000km is delayed by 5 hours, or a longer distance flight is delayed by 7 hours. Compensation will be €300 for flights of less than 2500km, €400 for flights of 2500-6000km, and €600 for longer flights.

Furthermore, clear rights are to be introduced in the event of 'tarmac delays', and for how air carriers should respond if accommodation and transport arrangements are required in the event of a delay.

Commenting on the outcome of the European Parliament First Reading position, which now requires negotiation with the European Council and European Commission before becoming European legislation, SNP MEP Ian Hudghton said,
"I welcome the clear and strong position agreed today by Members of the European Parliament. This vote confirms several necessary rights for passengers who may face long and frustrating delays out-with their control.

"I'm sure many people remember the travel chaos that occurred following the Icelandic volcano incident of 2010 for example, and this news today should assure passengers that in future should such an event occur again that there will be specific assistance and compensation rights available.

"I am therefore hopeful that following this vote, negotiations between the Parliament and the European Council and Commission reflect the position agreed upon today in favour of passenger rights."

NOTES

•The European Commission proposal builds on existing Regulation 261/2004. Air passenger rights regulation sets out the minimum standards passengers can expect when they are a) denied boarding; b) flight is cancelled; c) flight is delayed. Passenger rights, depending on their exact circumstances, include provisions such as compensation, reimbursement of their ticket, a return ticket at a later time, re-routing, and "duty of care", which includes free meals and refreshments, free phone calls or emails, and if the delay involves one or more nights, free accommodation and transport to and from the accommodation. The rights of vulnerable passengers, such as persons with reduced mobility, parents with very young children, and children travelling without an adult, are also protected.
•Passengers must also be fully informed by the carrier at all times of their rights, both through general communication at the check in area and specific information in the case of a delay, cancellation or being denied boarding.

The key extensions to passenger rights agreed upon by the European Parliament include:
• All airports with more than 1.5 million passengers a year must have contingency plans in the event of mass cancellations, leading to large numbers of stranded passengers, to provide them with information and assistance
•For first time, definite right to compensation if flight delayed by several hours. This right triggered if flight of less than 3500 km delayed by 3 hours, if flight of 3500-6000 km delayed by 5 hours, or longer flight delayed by 7 hours.
Compensation will be 300 EUR for flights of less than 2500 km, 400 EUR for flights of 2500-6000 km, and 600 EUR for longer flights.
•Clear rights in the event of "tarmac delays" (i.e. plane waiting on tarmac). If delay more than 1 hour, carrier must provide access to toilets and drinking water, a comfortable in-plane temperature, and medical facilities if needed. If the delay is 2 hours, the passengers should be disembarked. If the delay is 3 hours, the general rights in the event of a delay will be triggered, as if the passengers had never boarded.
• Accommodation and transport: the carrier cannot set an arbitrary limit on the subsidised cost of accommodation per night, and has to provide for 5 nights accommodation if needed, not 3. There will be no limitation on the "duty of care" if the passenger has special needs e.g. disabled.
• While there is a 2 hour delay requirement before passengers have rights to free meals and refreshments, drinking water must be provided immediately.
•Airport management bodies should provide specific facilities for severely disabled passengers.
The voted position by the EP is a First Reading position. This means that negotiations with Council and Commission must happen before the proposals become law.

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