In hope of ending passenger confusion over government passenger rights, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 69th Annual General Meeting (AGM) unanimously endorsed a set of core principles for governments to consider when adopting consumer protection regulation.
The resolution addresses a proliferation of uncoordinated and extra-territorial passenger rights legislation and regulation that is the cause of confusion among passengers, IATA said. Some 50 countries have passenger rights requirements affecting air transport and several more are considering imposing them.
“Airlines are aligned with governments in wanting to get their passengers to their destinations on time. But sometimes that is just not possible. Governments should set some simple guarantees on what passengers should expect in such situations. But un-harmonized and extra-territorial regulations can cause utter confusion for international travelers. Being stuck in Europe on a disrupted trip from the United States to Israel is bad enough for a passenger. Regulation shouldn’t worsen the situation by presenting them with a bewildering array of three conflicting passenger rights regimes,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
“Governments are turning a blind eye to the problems that they are creating. We want regulators to understand that travelers are our customers. And we want customers to have the best possible experience because our businesses depend on customers coming back. So, industry is providing a fresh solution. These core principles on consumer protection will help governments harmonize their various regimes. And they will be the centerpiece of an industry–wide campaign to help regulators recalibrate their impression of what the air travel experience is, and how it could be even better,” said Tyler.
In summary, the core principles call on governments to develop consumer protection regulations that:
• Are clear, unambiguous, aligned with international conventions, without extra-territorial implications and comparable with regimes in place for other modes of transport
• Allow airlines the ability to differentiate themselves through their customer service offerings above a basic common standard
• Ensure passenger access to information concerning their rights, fares, including taxes and charges (prior to purchasing a ticket), the actual operator of the flight, and regular situational updates in the case of service disruptions - Appropriate assistance for those with reduced mobility - Efficient complaint handling procedures that are clearly communicated
• Reflect the principle of proportionality and the impact of extraordinary circumstances when determining compensation
• Do not compromise the industry’s top priority of safety, and exonerate airlines from liability for safety-related delays and cancellations
• In the case of denied boarding and cancellations, entitle passengers to re-routing, refunds or compensation where circumstances are within the airlines’ control.
• In the case of delays, entitle passengers to re-routing, refunds or care and assistance; and acknowledge that when such delays or disruptions are beyond the control of airlines, market forces should determine the care and assistance available to passengers.
• Ensure that the burden is allocated among the different service providers involved.
“What’s needed is a Hippocratic Oath for regulators. The first principle would be to do no harm—intended or unintended. And every regulator should take an oath to solve problems, take full advantage of expert advice, measure costs against benefits and ensure global harmonization. The core principles are a first step,” said Tyler.