Volcanic ash crisis brings EU rulings

The 28th October 2011 was the day that the ECC-Net, or European Consumer Centres Network released their report entitled “ Air Passengers Rights Report 2011- In The Aftermath Of The Volcanic Ash Crisis”. This report is focussed on several aspects of the rights passengers in the EU have today, and particularly in 2010.

The ECC-Net, which has offices in many EU member states including Malta is aiming to assist consumers with the problems they could encounter regarding cross border transactions. They every day increase in cross-border trading has inevitably given rise to numerous, varied consumer related complaints and issues.

The ECC across the EU are witnessing this reality when they are trying to address the various complaints and queries they are receiving from consumers. EEC Malta assists by providing assistance and advice to citizens when they travel across borders and shop, and this office alone addressed well over 1000 complaints from consumers in 2010.

The amount of passengers travelling by air is increasing daily, so it comes as no real surprise that queries and problems are rising. ECC the member states have witness a year on year increase in right cases pertaining to air passengers.

The main objective of the ECC in Malta, along with the rest in the network, is to increase passengers awareness of both their rights and their obligations when they travel by air, and  thus increase their confidence when it comes to cross-border transactions. The volcanic ash crisis of 2010 really put to the test both air passengers rights, APR, and several other aspects that directly affect most of those who travel everyday on a plane.

This report is highlighting the major issues regarding APR in 2010, and assesses these from the point of view of ECC-Net. It also focuses in detail on the effects that the volcanic ash had on APR. Shortly after this crisis, which came courtesy of  Eyjafjallajökull, a large number of passengers affected by it turned to the airline companies, as they were dissatisfied and frustrated with the overall handling of the situation.

There were a lot of issues raised and the  legalities, especially those concerned with “extraordinary circumstances”and how regulation 261/2005 was applied came under close scrutiny and was the basis for many a discussion. The ECC-Net had  the unique opportunity of viewing these issue from the perspective of the consumer and have used this report to look closer at the specific problems characterised during this time, and also at the work done to address these problems by the national enforcement bodies.

The volcanic ash crises weren’t the only difficulties to affect passengers in 2010 however, as they also encountered problems like damaged luggage, reimbursements of charges and taxes, bookings and re-bookings, denied boarding issues and delays. In total, ECC-Net handled 71,292 and 44,000 of these were complaints.