Thursday, February 17, 2005

Tourists coming to Spain to benefit from new EU legislation

New European legislation passed last year comes into force today giving air passengers the right to claim cash compensation for delays caused by overbooking, including (for the first time) on charter flights. The new measures are expected to benefit thousands of tourists who come to Spain on charter flights each year and often have to face long delays caused by overbooking, especially during high season.

Previously passangers on short flights were only able to claim a refund and compensation if their flight was cancelled. But according to the new laws, travellers whose trips are delayed (for 2 hours or more on short-haul flights and 4 hours or more on long-haul flights) will also have the right to claim their money back.

The measures represent a setback for cheap flight companies like Easyjet and Ryan Air who have criticized the new laws because they believe they are excessive. They say compensation will often exceed the original price of the flight, which means they will be forced to put ticket prices up. Neither company enjoys a good reputation for the way it responds to customer complaints over delays and cancellations.

The new rules double the compensation which airlines have to give for overbooking on long-haul flights (from 300 to 600 euros) and introduces a new compensation for short-haul flights of 250 euros. It is the latter which will benefit tourists flying to Spain.

From now on, when running an overbooked flight, air companies will have to consult passengers to see if there are any volunteers prepared to be put on another flight in return for compensation. They will only be able to refuse travellers the right to travel if no volunteers are found.

As from today all travellers who face cancellation because of overbooking will have the right to choose between a full refund or a ticket on another flight, aswell as the standard compensation fee and, if the overbooking occurs on a connecting flight, the right to a free flight back to the place from where they began their journey. Airlines must offer travellers who choose to continue their journey on another flight refreshments, hotel accommodation (if the delay is overnight) and the right to two phone calls, fax messages or emails.


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