European Airline Passengers Flying High with Enhanced Legal Rights

SQ Law Group, European Law Firm, Outlines Key Changes Due in 2015


Rome, Italy (– SQ Law, a full service European legal group with expertise in aviation law, outlines the key aspects of the recent EU legislation proposed to boost airline passenger rights whilst addressing the interests and concerns of the airline industry.

Gianluca Meranda, partner at SQ Law and an expert in aviation law, confirms the importance of this law to balance the concerns of both sides of the debate; “The lack of clarity in the current law has caused unnecessary challenges for passengers and the aviation industry alike. We have represented both over the years and welcome this increased transparency.” Meranda continues, “Enforcement of the law has been a thorny issue, and these new rules should provide greater protection for consumers, greater powers to authorities in applying the law, and increased operational efficiencies for airlines.”

Consumer Protections

The new measures aim to address the most common airline practices that remain a regular source of frustration to travelers.

They would compel airlines to provide information and benefits when flights are delayed.

Passengers, for example, would be entitled to know what is happening after a 30-minute flight delay. They would also have a right to food and water after two hours of waiting, even if already on board the plane.

Airlines would have to provide alternative travel routes within 12 hours, even if it means travel with another airline.

The new rules will also clarify what are known as “extraordinary circumstances” for compensation: only natural disasters and air traffic control strikes can be defined as extraordinary, but technical problems identified during routine aircraft maintenance cannot.

Pan-European View

The proposal, which requires approval by a majority of the Union’s 27 member countries, as well as the European Parliament, aims to seek tougher oversight and enforcement of airlines’ compliance with the law.

According to the European Consumer Centre, complaints about airlines increased across Europe by 96% between 2006 and 2010. The number rose significantly following the disruption to flights due to the Icelandic volcanic eruption in April 2010. Many of these complaints were lodged either because the airlines did not respond themselves or denied the passenger’s claim, in some instances stating that the legislation on air passenger rights did not apply.

A recent survey in Germany found that more than 20% of passengers received no response after filing a complaint with an airline. Only 2 to 4% of passengers surveyed in Denmark received compensation to which they were entitled.

EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas argues that the improved measures would also increase competition. “These rules only apply if you are on a European carrier. So my message is ‘Fly European,'” Kallas stated.

Aviation Industry Protections

Not all the changes, however, favour passengers. Airlines have successfully argued they should not be liable for unlimited hotel bills for delayed customers. Under the new measures, airlines will have to pay for a maximum of three nights’ hotel accommodation. Exceptions will be made for passengers with reduced mobility, unaccompanied children, or pregnant women.

Airlines will no longer have to pay compensation for delays or cancellations caused by severe weather or strikes, although their obligation to provide care – such as hotel accommodation for stranded passengers – will remain.

Another concession is that airlines will not have to pay compensation until a flight is delayed by at least five hours – two hours more than at present.

Underpinning the changes is the belief that simplifying and clarifying the rules will bring an end to prolonged litigation with airlines challenging the provisions of ambiguous EU rules in the courts.

Today, some national laws may hinder air carriers from seeking redress from third parties responsible for the flight disruption. This proposal lifts national restrictions on air carriers’ right to seek compensation from responsible third parties; including airport authorities, traffic controllers and ground handlers, among others.


Eight years after the EU introduced its passenger rights legislation, the general public still does not fully understand the law; nor the potential repercussions if airlines are stretched too thin (increased airline ticket costs, for example).

According to SQ Law’s Gianluca Meranda these new rules can serve to strengthen the competitiveness of the European aviation industry (‘fly Europe to receive privileged protections’) while at the same time supporting the interests of all consumers. “By focusing on transparency, compliance, and regulatory conditions that can stimulate investment, comprehensive and coherent regulation can benefit not only passengers but the aviation industry as a whole,” concludes Meranda.

About SQ Law
SQ Law is a global law group serving international private and corporate clients in virtually every area of cross-border law. Created in 2013 from the partnership between MPlegal in Italy and SQ-Law in Belgium, the group comprises a total of 5 partners and 25 multi-jurisdictional lawyers and boasts over 30 years of global experience. SQ Law are members of Legal Netlink Alliance (LNA) a group of carefully selected general practice independent law firms that share common high-level expectations of quality and integrity. The firm was awarded Corporate and Commercial Law Firm of the year – Italy by DealMakers Monthly Magazine (2013); and Lawyer Monthly, Finance Monthly and M&A International Magazines (2012).

SQ Law: Trustworthy, Dynamic, Experienced.

SQ Law EEIG is an international group of independent law firms incorporated under Belgian law.

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