Travel: EU raises compensation paid to victims of airline overbooking

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The Independent Online
Airline passengers "bumped off" their flights because of overbooking will be entitled to more money in compensation under new European Union rules tabled by the transport commissioner, Neil Kinnock.

The rules, which will become law if a majority of EU governments agree, raise the top rate of compensation from pounds 100 to pounds 122 for short haul flights and from pounds 198 to pounds 244 for long haul flights.

"This decision should strengthen consumer rights. It not only increases the amount of money available but ensures that airlines recognise their obligations to the flying public. If you are a victim of overbooking you have an automatic right to compensation," Mr Kinnock said yesterday after clearing the plan with European Commission colleagues.

Legislation aimed at protecting passengers from overbooking has been on the EU's statute books since 1991 but the new rules would extend coverage for the first time to package holiday-makers and charter flight passengers.

Mr Kinnock, who is dissatisfied with the way some airlines leave it to victims of overbooking to discover their entitlements and then pursue claims, is also demanding tougher requirement on the airline to inform customers.

Clear notices will have to be placed at check-in desks to tell passengers of their rights. Compensation will be payable in cash and only if the passenger agrees in writing can travel vouchers or other services be used instead.

In addition to compensation the onus will be on the company to refund the cost of the ticket for the part of the journey not made, or to reroute the passenger on the next available flight. Compensation will be halved if an alternative flight can be found within two hours or four hours for long haul journeys.

With some carriers such as Virgin now introducing ticket-less flights Mr Kinnock has also broadened the legislation to ensure that vouchers and reservation numbers given by phone at the time of booking are covered by the definition of ticket.