EU legislation protects air passengers’ rights

The weekend in London went more or less as planned, with a little work and a lot of shopping. But the return to Athens was not what 27-year-old clerk V.G. had expected. An unpleasant surprise was waiting for her at Eleftherios Venizelos airport. When her suitcase emerged from carousel number 3 it was covered in plastic and looked as if it had been opened. A quick glance revealed that several things were missing – cosmetics, jewelry and a scarf – most of which she had just bought. Compensation The lost-luggage office at the airport referred her to the airline company, but V.G. had to wait two months and send numerous letters before the airline finally paid her the minimum compensation. V.G. did not know about EU legislation that went into force in February 2005 and which bolstered the rights of airline passengers. And, even if she had, things would probably not have turned out very differently. As many consumer organizations and travel agents complained to Kathimerini, our rights seem to vanish into thin air when we travel by plane. «To be precise,» Mr Malliaris of the Greek federation of travel agents, «it depends on the goodwill of each airline. It is true that some of them try to avoid fulfilling their obligations.» «In most cases pressure needs to be applied,» said EKPOIZO consumer organization vice president Panayiota Kalapothartakou. «For example, when a flight is canceled, all companies make sure their passengers get to their destination on the next flight. But if someone asks for further compensation, to which they are entitled to by European legislation – then the problems start.» Officials from the European Consumers’ Center told Kathimerini the same thing: «At first, the companies don’t respond. Only after some form of intervention by us or another agency do things get moving.» It is not by chance that there has been no decrease in the number of complaints those organizations have received concerning canceled flights, major delays or loss of luggage. Last week, however, the European Court of Justice ratified EU law 261/2004 as complying with the Montreal Convention. The International Association of Airlines and the European Union of Low-Cost Airlines (which represents 10 cheap airlines) have both appealed to the court, claiming that the cost of the compensation stipulated in the law often exceeds that of the ticket.

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