EU Commission calls for stricter enforcement of passenger rights legislation in Europe

European Commission – Press release

Commission calls for stricter enforcement of passenger rights legislation in Europe

Brussels, 03 July 2015

As millions of European citizens will be travelling during the summer period, today the Commission is calling for better application and enforcement of passenger rights legislation in the European Union. As a first remedy, the Commission today adopted interpretative guidelines clarifying the existing rules in the rail sector.

EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “Transport is not about infrastructure, tracks, trains or trucks, it is about people. That is why the Commission has always put citizens at the heart of its transport policy. Under its leadership, the EU became the first area in the world where passengers have guaranteed rights across all forms of transport. Which is why I cannot accept that a lack of enforcement jeopardises this achievement. I therefore call on all Member States to ensure that EU legislation is correctly applied. The rail guidelines adopted today will provide some assistance. I also hope that the discussions in the Council on a new Regulation in the air sector can move forward, for the benefit of EU citizens.”

Addressed to the rail transport industry and to national authorities, the guidelines adopted today seek to clarify and strengthen the application and enforcement of rail passenger rights in the European Union. In particular, an assessment of the implementation of the Regulation and of the relevant case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) pointed at a need to clarify the following points:

  1. Information: All actors need to make information about travel, tariffs and tickets available to passengers, including in alternative formats for persons with disabilities.
  2. Delays, cancellations and missed connections: Passengers holding separate tickets under a single contract have equal rights as passengers with a single ticket.
  3. Rights of persons with disabilities or reduced mobility: Rail companies cannot ask for medical certificates as a precondition to sell a ticket, to allow these persons to use rail services or to justify their need for assistance.
  4. Complaint handling, enforcement and cooperation between national authorities: Railway companies and national authorities have to set up adequate complaint handling mechanisms. Railway companies have to reply to complainants within strict time frames.

Regarding the air sector, in 2013 the Commission proposed to amend the current Regulation on air passenger rights. The legislative procedure in the European Parliament and Council is ongoing. Existing rights have nevertheless already been further developed and strengthened by the case-law of the ECJ. The Commission has therefore decided to make available a summary of the most relevant judgements on air passenger rights and of their practical implications on its web page. They include compensation for delays, compensation for missed connecting flights or precisions to the notion of “extraordinary circumstances” under which airlines can be exempted from paying the compensation.

Background

Protecting the rights of passengers across all transport modes is a long-standing commitment of the Commission. For this holiday season, EU Commissioner for transport Violeta Bulc recorded this video clip explaining why protecting passengers’ rights matters to the Commission.

Next steps. In addition to the Commission’s on-going information campaign to raise citizens’ awareness on passengers’ rights, the Commission services will also launch an impact assessment in order to examine options to further improve rail passenger rights in the EU. The Commission will also look into options for a legal framework for passenger rights when using different modes of transport for a single journey.

Passenger Name Records: MEPs back EU system with data protection safeguards

European Parliament: Press Release

Passenger Name Records: MEPs back EU system with data protection safeguards
LIBE Press release – Justice and home affairs − 15-07-2015 – 16:24

Draft EU rules on sharing and protecting the Passenger Name Record (PNR) data of people flying to or from the EU, and its use by member states and Europol to fight terrorism and serious transnational crime, were approved by the Civil Liberties Committee on Wednesday. This data must only be used to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute these crimes, said MEPs, inserting safeguards to ensure “the lawfulness of any storage, analysis, transfer and use of PNR data”.

“Without this EU system in place a number of EU governments will go it alone and create their own systems. That would leave gaps in the net and create a patchwork approach to data protection. With one EU-wide system, we can close the net and ensure high standards of data protection and proportionality are applied right across Europe. The emerging threat posed by so-called ‘foreign fighters’ has made this system even more essential”, said Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK).

“PNR is not a ‘silver bullet’ but it can be an invaluable weapon in the armoury. We will now open talks with national governments with a view to reaching a final agreement before the end of the year”, he added.

The amended rules were approved by 32 votes to 27. The mandate to open negotiations with the EU Council of Ministers was approved by 36 votes to 14, with 8 abstentions.

Only flights to and from the EU

The PNR rules would apply to air carriers and non-carriers such as travel agencies and tour operators operating “international flights”, i.e. those to or from the EU, according to the committee amendments. They would not apply to “intra-EU” flights between EU member states.

Offences covered

Under the amended rules, PNR data could be processed “only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and certain types of serious transnational crime”. The list approved by MEPs includes, for example, trafficking in human beings, sexual exploitation of children, drug trafficking, trafficking in weapons, munitions and explosives, money laundering and cybercrime.

Data protection safeguards

The application of these rules “must be duly justified and the necessary safeguards must be in place in order to ensure the lawfulness of any storage, analysis, transfer and use of PNR data”, says the approved text.

Safeguards inserted by MEPs include the following requirements:

  • Member states’ “Passenger Information Units” (PIUs) would be entitled to process PNR data only for limited purposes, such as identifying a passenger who may be involved in a terrorist offence or serious transnational crime and who requires further examination,
  • PIUs would have to appoint a data protection officer to monitor data processing and safeguards and act as a single contact point for passengers with PNR data concerns,
  • all processing of PNR data would have to be logged or documented,
  • passengers would have to be clearly and precisely informed about the collection of PNR data and their rights, and
  • stricter conditions would govern any transfer of data to third countries.

Data protection provisions prohibiting the use of sensitive data or the transfer of PNR data to private parties were also backed by MEPs,

Data retention period

PNR data transferred by air carriers and non-carriers would be retained in the national PIU for an initial period of 30 days, after which all data elements which could serve to identify a passenger would have to be “masked out”, and then for up to five years.

The “masked out” data would be accessible only to a limited number of PIU staff, with security training and clearance, for up to four years in serious transnational crime cases and five years for terrorism ones.

After the five years, PNR data would have to be permanently deleted, unless the competent authorities are using it for specific criminal investigations or prosecutions (in which case the retention of data would be regulated by the national law of the member state concerned).

Step up information-sharing among member states

MEPs inserted new provisions requiring member states to share PNR data with each other and with Europol and stipulating conditions for doing so. EU countries should use Europol’s Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA) system to share PNR data. A one-stop shop could be created to register and pass on requests for information exchanges, MEPs suggest.

Next steps

This vote gives the rapporteur a mandate to start negotiations with the EU Council of Ministers to agree on the draft directive. The three-way talks between Parliament, Council and Commission negotiators (“trilogues”) should start soon.

Note to editors

In a resolution voted on 11 February 2015, Parliament committed itself “to work towards the finalisation of an EU PNR directive by the end of the year” (reiterated in a resolution voted on 9 July 2015) and encouraged the Council to make progress on the data protection package so that trilogues on both “could take place in parallel”.

The first trialogue on the data protection regulation took place on 24 June, after the Council agreed its general approach on 15 June. The Council agreed its general approach on the EU PNR proposal in April 2012.

In the chair: Claude Moraes (S&D, UK)

Procedure: co-decision (first reading), mandate for negotiations
REF. : 20150714IPR81601
Updated: 15-07-2015 – 20:25

Meaning of ‘passenger’ under EU air carrier insurance regulation and Montreal Convention

Wucher Helicopter GmbH and Euro-Aviation Versicherung AG v Fridolin Santer
C-6/14, CJEU, 26 February 2015

References for a preliminary ruling — Regulation (EC) No 785/2004 — Air carriers and aircraft operators — Insurance — Requirements — Definitions of ‘passenger’ and ‘member of the crew’ — Helicopter — Carriage of an expert in the blasting of avalanches using explosives — Injury suffered during a work flight — Compensation

The request for a preliminary ruling concerned the interpretation of Article 3(g) of Regulation (EC) No 785/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on insurance requirements for air carriers and aircraft operators and Article 17(1) of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (‘the Montreal Convention’).

The request was made in ‘revision’ proceedings between Wucher Helicopter GmbH, an Austrian air carrier (‘Wucher’) and Euro-Aviation Versicherungs AG (‘Euro-Aviation’), a German insurance company and Mr Santer, concerning compensation for Mr Santer for an injury suffered in an accident which occurred on a flight.

The Oberster Gerichtshof referred the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

1. Is Article 3(g) of [Regulation No 785/2004] to be interpreted as meaning that the occupant of a helicopter held by a Community air carrier,
– who is carried on a contractual basis (specifically: a contract between the air carrier and the occupant’s employer),
– but who is carried for the purpose of a particular job of work (specifically: the blasting of avalanches)
and
– who is involved in that operation as a “guide familiar with the terrain” and must at the pilot’s direction open the helicopter door during the flight and then hold it open in a particular manner and for a particular period of time,

(a) is a “passenger”
or
(b) ranks among “on-duty members of both the flight crew and the cabin crew”?

2. If Question 1(a) is answered in the affirmative:

Is Article 17(1) of the [Montreal Convention] to be interpreted as meaning that the term “passenger” (German: “Reisender”) in any event includes a “passenger” (German: “Fluggast”) within the meaning of Article 3(g) of Regulation (EC) No 785/2004?

3. If Question 2 is answered in the negative:

Is Article 17(1) of the Montreal Convention to be interpreted as meaning that under the conditions stated in Question 1 the occupant of a helicopter held by a Community air carrier is a “passenger” (“Reisender”)?’

The CJEU held:
1. Article 3(g) of Regulation (EC) No 785/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on insurance requirements for air carriers and aircraft operators must be interpreted as meaning that the occupant of a helicopter held by a Community air carrier, who is carried on the basis of a contract between that air carrier and the occupant’s employer in order to perform a specific task, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, is a ‘passenger’ within the meaning of that provision.

2. Article 17 of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, concluded in Montreal on 28 May 1999, signed by the European Community on 9 December 1999 on the basis of Article 300(2) EC, approved on behalf of the EC by Council Decision 2001/539/EC of 5 April 2001, must be interpreted as meaning that a person who comes within the definition of ‘passenger’ within the meaning of Article 3(g) of Regulation No 785/2004, also comes within the definition of ‘passenger’ within the meaning of Article 17 of that convention, once that person has been carried on the basis of a ‘contract of carriage’ within the meaning of Article 3 of that convention.

For further CJEU case law, see our European Law – Cases page.

CJEU Judgment on the concept of ‘arrival time’ under Regulation No. 261/2004 in Germanwings C-452/13

Germanwings GmbH v Ronny Henning C-452/13
CJEU, 4 September 2014

Reference for a preliminary ruling – Air transport – Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 – Articles 2, 5 and 7 – Right to compensation in the event of a long delay to a flight – Length of delay – Concept of ‘arrival time’

The request for a preliminary ruling concerned the interpretation of the concept of ‘arrival time’ within the meaning of Articles 2, 5 and 7 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.

The Regional Court, Salzburg referred the following question to the CJEU:

‘What time is relevant for the term “time of arrival” used in Articles 2, 5 and 7 of Regulation [No 261/2004]:
(a) the time that the aircraft lands on the runway (“touchdown”);
(b) the time that the aircraft reaches its parking position and the parking brakes are engaged or the chocks have been applied (“in-block time”);
(c) the time that the aircraft door is opened;
(d) a time defined by the parties in the context of party autonomy?’

The Court held:
Articles 2, 5 and 7 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of ‘arrival time’, which is used to determine the length of the delay to which passengers on a flight have been subject, refers to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, the assumption being that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft.

For further CJEU case law, see our European Law – Cases page.

New Aviation Law Blog Post: Recent Lectures at the Royal Aeronautical Society

New blog post:

Summaries of Recent Lectures at the Royal Aeronautical Society
Arpad Szakal

On 6 November 2013, one of our national editors, Arpad Szakal, attended a lecture by Richard Deakin, CEO of NATS. The lecture was held at the Royal Aeronautical Society in honour of Lord Brabazon of Tara. The main theme of Richard’s talk was the Single European Sky initiative.

On 24 July 2013, Arpad attended another lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society, this time in honour of Major Kenneth Beaumont. The lecture was given by Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of IATA. Tony highlighted some of the challenges facing the aviation industry and also discussed regulations dealing with passenger rights.

Arpad has kindly prepared a short summary of both events. To read the summaries, see the Aviation Law Blog page.