Evaluations of three Regulations designed to protect the rights of ship and bus passengers as well as air passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility have concluded that they offer a coherent level of rights, resulting in better protection.bThe objectives of the Regulations remain highly relevant today and the European Commission will begin its actions on passenger rights further still, on that basis, as set out in the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.

The evaluations

This evaluation shows that the Regulation offers effective protection against discrimination for persons with disabilities and reduced mobility travelling by air. The assistance that they receive for free offers these people more comparable opportunities to use air transport than was the case before the adoption of the Regulation. Airports and airlines, in general, acknowledge the necessity of this Regulation and have made considerable effort to implement it.

However, the evaluation also shows that many persons with disabilities and reduced mobility are not aware of their rights, and even if they are, it is often difficult to get individual redress. If a passenger submits a complaint (there are around 15 complaints per million passengers), many National Enforcement Bodies are unable to make binding decisions. Some legal gaps (e.g. definition of mobility equipment, medical equipment, recognised assistance dogs) were also detected, which render it difficult to apply the Regulation in certain situations.

The Regulation on waterborne passenger rights was introduced in a very diverse market, where the Member States with large volumes of waterborne traffic already had a high level of passenger rights, whereas the Member States with less traffic had no passenger rights in place prior to the Regulation. Hence the Regulation has ensured that waterborne passengers have the same level of rights across the European Union. However, there is room for improvement both when it comes to clarification of the Regulation itself, the rights it grants, and implementation, and monitoring and enforcement by the Member States. The recent preliminary ruling in case C-570/19 of the Court of Justice of the European Union (Irish Ferries) provided some clarifications, in particular regarding the notion of extraordinary circumstances or re-routing under comparable conditions.

A lack of passenger awareness was detected; only one in a million passengers makes a complaint to the National Enforcement Body.

This evaluation found that the Regulation on bus and coach passenger rights has ensured that passengers have the same level of rights across the European Union. However, it also identified several gaps in the existing legal framework, including limited protection for passengers travelling on scheduled services of less than 250km, non-coverage of delays en-route and on arrival, as well as limited liability for damage or lost luggage. Furthermore, the evaluation showed shortcomings and a lack of clarity concerning certain provisions on enforcement, sometimes leading to inconsistent processes across the EU.

A low number of passengers’ complaints to the National Enforcement Bodies (1.5 complaints per million passengers) may be linked to low awareness of passenger rights.

Comparative analysis of good practices

The Commission has also published an external study presenting a comparative analysis of good passenger rights practices across all transport modes. This study confirms that the EU is the frontrunner in protecting passengers against all kinds of disruptions affecting collective transport. Fourteen good practices are identified, dissemination of which across the EU and across modes could help strengthen the quality of service and the level of protection provided to passengers in the EU.

Next steps

The COVID-19 crisis has further highlighted the need for a modern and clear regulatory framework on passenger rights. Following up on its recent Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the Commission will review the existing rules to ensure their resilience to extensive travel disruptions, including options for multimodal tickets. After assessing the options, the Commission may also propose, if appropriate, a financial scheme to protect passengers’ rights to reimbursement of tickets, and repatriation, during a liquidity crisis or insolvency.

A review of the EU passenger rights regulatory framework as planned under the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy (see actions 63 and 64 of the Action Plan) will begin early in 2022. Public and stakeholder consultations will take place.

Source: European Commission