Hundreds of millions of people travel throughout Europe every year, whether it be for business or pleasure, so the European Union has implemented a Passenger Bill of Rights, with the aim of protecting passengers when journeys are disrupted.
These Passenger Rights now apply no matter by which method you travel, by air, rail, water or road, and puts the onus on carriers to take responsibility for either compensation passengers or making provisions for them to complete their journeys when there have been disruptions.
The reason for the introduction of the Passenger Bill of Rights is to guarantee a set of common principles which are applicable to all modes of transport whether or not that journey takes place within a single member state, or crosses borders.
Passenger rights are based on three cornerstones: non-discrimination; accurate, timely and accessible information; immediate and proportionate assistance. The following ten rights that stem from these principles form the core of EU passenger rights:
(1) Right to non-discrimination in access to transport
(2) Right to mobility: accessibility and assistance at no additional cost for disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility (PRM)
(3) Right to information before purchase and at the various stages of travel, notably in case of disruption
(4) Right to renounce travelling (reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket) when the trip is not carried out as planned
(5) Right to the fulfilment of the transport contract in case of disruption (rerouting and rebooking)
(6) Right to get assistance in case of long delay at departure or at connecting points
(7) Right to compensation under certain circumstances
(8) Right to carrier liability towards passengers and their baggage
(9) Right to a quick and accessible system of complaint handling
(10) Right to full application and effective enforcement of EU law
These rights are applicable in cases of genuine non-compliance, in relation to the provision of services for people with disabilities, or for when genuine disruptions occur which may prevent travel, such as bad weather, natural disasters, etc.
The rights do not apply to passengers who simply change their minds or who, through their own fault, miss connections or indulge in behaviours which prevent them from travelling on the assigned transport.
Some of the transport businesses are concerned about the Passenger Bill of Rights as it does impact on their costs. Low cost airlines have expressed their opposition to some of the rights, particularly regarding re-imbursement and compensation due to disruption of travel for circumstances beyond their control.
Of course, as this is a European Union initiative it is bound to be swathed in so much red tape that actually going through the process of making a claim may be more difficult than actually making your own arrangements if an incident does occur.