How will airline bailouts affect passengers?
With most flights grounded and canceled due to the corona crisis, there is no doubt the aviation industry needs financial support. United States airlines are now asking for loans upwards of $50 billion. While taxpayers are expected to finance these rescue packages, their rights are being taken away from them by the same airlines they are about to save.
Currently, travelers flying to Europe on a European airline, making a stopover in the EU, or departing from the EU on any airline are entitled to compensation for avoidable disruptions under passenger rights law EC261. Ever since the European Union decided to revise the original 2004 Passenger Rights Regulation (EC261) in 2013, airlines have been lobbying vigorously to weaken passenger rights, for commercial reasons. If these changes were to be pushed through, passengers will be stripped of up to 80% of their current rights under EC 261. The Association of Passenger Rights Advocates (APRA) warns that the current COVID-19 crisis should not be exploited to push this agenda.
Christian Nielsen, board member and spokesperson of APRA said: “Every year, more than 40 million passengers are impacted by flight cancellation globally, with many left stranded at the airport – through no fault of their own – and forced to incur extra expenses and other negative consequences. These are the passengers that need strong air passenger rights. Regulation EC261 offers them this much needed protection. We understand that this is a time of crisis for airlines, but it is a crisis for everyone around the world – especially individuals and passengers. These short-term circumstances can not be an excuse for long-term changes in passenger rights.”
EC 261 has proven to keep airlines in check and to fly more efficiently.it is clear that airlines’ profits have barely been impacted by EC 261 in the past, so there is no reason for these laws to be weakened now.