APRA Welcomes the European Court of Auditors’ Special Report on EU Passengers’ Rights


APRA Welcomes the European Court of Auditors’ Special Report on EU Passengers’ Rights



  • European Court of Auditors (ECA) publishes new report on EU Passenger Rights
  • The passenger rights legislation is one of the union’s flagship policies, empowering travelers with great success.
  • The report confirms passengers struggle to get the compensation owed



Brussels, 08 November 2018

The EC 261-legislation is a success, but passengers struggle to get the compensation they are owed. That is the conclusion in a report presented – and available here – today by The European Court of Auditors (ECA) in Brussels. The study, named “EU passenger rights are comprehensive, but passengers still need to fight for them” and available here, is a complete performance audit on passenger rights.

The report confirms that passengers have a well-developed EU system of passenger rights. For air passengers, this protection comes in the form of Regulation EC 261/2004. The European Commission considers the passenger rights legislation as one of its great successes in empowering consumers. The problems are thus not related to inadequate protection but to a general lack of awareness amongst travelers as well as issues regarding enforcement.

The report shows that the Commission’s proposal to reduce the cost of assistance and compensation borne by carriers, as well as to increase waiting times from 3 to 5 hours, was only based on very limited data made available to the Commission by the airlines, making these elements of the proposal misguided.

Furthermore, a recently published research paper by the College of Europe confirmed the effectiveness of Regulation EC 261/2004 in reducing flight delays. It further highlighted the importance of the work that the European claim industry does to encourage airlines to improve their service. Continuing its work to represent passenger rights in Europe, APRA participated today at the stakeholder roundtable debate organised to present the ECA’s report in Brussels.

The audit report furthermore states that claim agencies and alternative dispute resolution bodies fill the enforcement gaps regarding compliance with the passenger rights legislation. It outlines cases whereby passengers were ignored and refused by the airlines until enlisting a claim agency, which helped the passengers successfully enforce their rights.

APRA President Christian Nielsen said: “The report shows that people want compensation after suffering the consequences of a disrupted flight. However, two thirds of passengers don’t claim their rightful compensation because they believe they won’t be successful or they don’t even know what they are entitled to. We are proud of the work that the European claim industry has done to date in closing the awareness and justice gap, and we look forward to helping more and more passengers around the world understand and enforce their rights vis-à-vis non-compliant airlines.”



Passenger Rights Regulation EC 261 Highly Effective in Reducing Flight Delays, College of Europe Research Shows

On 29 October, as a part of its series of policy briefs[1], the College of Europe University published a concise paper entitled Consumer Rights Improve Service Quality: Evidence from EU Air Passenger Rights. Authored by Dr. Hinnerk Gnutzmann and Dr. Piotr Spiewanowski, the paper eloquently provides evidence that the Regulation works, and it works well.

Passenger rights are one important part of the EU’s overall objective to offer consumers maximum protection, which is laid down in Art. 169 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The authors of the paper published yesterday prove that the Regulation “has not only strengthened the protections of passengers on severely delayed or cancelled flights (insurance component), but also increased the reliability of EU airlines across the board (service quality component)”[2].

The paper furthermore shows that European air passenger rights are remarkably strong compared to other parts of the world. In all other countries, policies put less emphasis on the consumer and the insurance component is not present. This results in little to no positive impact on delays.

Awareness of EC 261 amongst passengers is crucial, the paper argues. Claim agencies play an important part in the enforcement element of the Regulation. The authors explain that “agencies charge a contingency fee to distressed passengers and credibly threaten to sue airlines in case of non-compliance. Overall, significant improvements have been achieved in this dimension without regulatory changes”. The compensation amounts laid down in Regulation EC 261 make it possible for claim agencies to help passengers. “This suggests that, as long as compensation amounts are not reduced substantially, priorities for passenger rights reform should be placed elsewhere”.

The study concludes that the EC 261 Regulation is “highly effective in reducing flight delays”. By placing financial incentives on airlines to do better, delays are effectively reduced.

APRA fully supports these findings, which are mirrored by our own data.



[1] A College of Europe Policy Brief (CEPOB) is a short paper dealing with a topical policy challenge related to European Union affairs. It starts from the analysis of this challenge and provides scientific insights as evidence base for policy choices regarding the future handling of the challenge. https://www.coleurope.eu/page-ref/cepob-college-europe-policy-brief-series


[2] Gnutzmann and Spiewandowski, CEBOP # 13 – October 2018

EU court said airlines must compensate for delays caused by internal strikes

EU regulation gives passengers on a delayed flight the right to compensation of up to 600 euros, depending on the distance of the flight but Airlines are exempt from paying this if they can show there were “extraordinary circumstances” which they could not have reasonably avoided.

On Tuesday the 17th of April, the European Union’s top court ruled that from now on, airlines have to pay compensation for flight delays caused by internal strikes as well, as opposed to just union organised strikes.

APRA welcomes the ECJ ruling as it increases legal certainty for air passengers throughout the EU.

Airline CEO Complains About Cost of Complying with EU Passenger Rights

Brussels, 6 March 2018.


During the annual Aviation Summit, organized by Airlines for Europe (A4E) at the prestigious Concert Noble in Brussels today, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr, who is also the outgoing chairman of the EU Airline Lobbying outfit A4E, complained about the rising costs related to complying with EU Regulation 261, which ensures passenger rights.

Claiming that the Regulation needs urgent revision, Mr. Spohr accused the EU Council (the collective of EU Member States) of holding the file hostage over a dispute regarding Gibraltar. According to the CEO, Courts and Judges across the EU apply the Regulation differently, which creates uncertainty and brings about large costs.

Continue reading “Airline CEO Complains About Cost of Complying with EU Passenger Rights”

New Passenger Rights Group APRA Successfully Launched!

On 31 January 2018, during a cocktail event in the European Parliament, the Association of Passenger Rights Advocates (APRA) announced itself as the new player on the Brussels policy scene. Policy makers from all institutions, as well as airlines and other stakeholders came together to debate the need for strong and clear passenger rights.

Continue reading “New Passenger Rights Group APRA Successfully Launched!”