EU has strong passenger protections for airlines

July 19, 2010 7:15:16 PM PDT
If your flight home from Europe is delayed or cancelled, you are in luck -- the EU has strong passenger rights protections that U.S. carriers would probably prefer you not know about.

On the websites of many European airlines, there is a section with information about EC 261, the 2005 law requiring European carriers and any airline operating in Europe to compensate passengers for delays and cancellations.

"Most people don't know it in Europe, let alone the U.S. where we couldn't imagine a carrier would give us an overnight hotel room," travel lawyer Al Anolik said.

The European Commission recently launched a campaign to educate travelers about the law, which calls for penalties up to 600 Euros (about $750) when the carrier is at fault and pay for hotel and meals even if it is not.

The law applies to American carriers at the time they are flying out of Europe. But Anolik says do not count on the airlines letting you know.

"The airlines are not going to tell you about the law and if you ask about it you might get shuffled around," he said.

The Airline Transport Association says American carriers do comply with the law, but no information is available on how much it has cost them over the last five years.

One Swedish traveler says she knows about the EU rule, but thinks it is too hard on the airlines.

"I think we should do something in between; I don't think the airlines companies should pay for everything," Mariom Heincke said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is considering new passenger rights rules for airlines. The public comment period closes at the end of this month.


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