Euroconsumers members ready to support consumers through summer chaos
Euroconsumers is ready with information and advice for consumers facing a summer of travel chaos because of airline strikes, cancellations and staff shortages.
Travel in 2022 did not get off to a great start with disruption to air travel during the Easter and spring season. The summer looks no better as airlines are forced to cancel hundreds of flights due to staff shortages and the additional pressure of strikes by airline staff over conditions and pay.
Airports are also facing a shortage of staff to carry out security checks or baggage handling and some have brought in flight restrictions in order to manage the load. This has a knock-on effect on queues at airports at check-in and security which is not only frustrating but could mean consumers miss their flights.
Passengers have been warned to expect delays, cancellations and frustration but after 2 years of Covid-19 disrupted holidays there will be many people attempting a summer getaway. Euroconsumers and our members are preparing advice and support for anyone affected by travel problems as the summer unfolds.
Airlines’ strikes hit consumers hard
Air passenger rights are protected by EU regulations covering compensation for cancelled, delayed or overbooked flights if they depart from the EU or on European airlines in the EEA. However, the situation can get more complex when different factors affect delays, and we have seen that companies have already attempted to absolve themselves of their responsibilities.
For example, RyanAir originally disputed they would need to pay compensation to passengers whose flights were cancelled or delayed due to their own staff being on strike. They claimed they were exempt from compensation obligations because the problems were caused by a ‘force majeure’ although they later conceded and settled with consumers in Belgium. A strike by an airline’s own staff is considered to be within their control.
However, it is not yet clear what rights passengers have if it is not airline staff strikes but more airline staff shortages that delay passengers. This could well be the case this year as long queues at check-in desks mean some people miss their flight. We might assume that the responsibility lies with the airline as it is their duty to staff its operations.
However, as it has yet to be tested, Euroconsumers advises that passengers obtain evidence to show they had arrived within the required timeslot in order to help with a later claim. This could be photographing their arrival times at the airport and/or request written acknowledgement from the airline to confirm their arrival time. Other options are to find out from the airline what re-routing options there are – although this can be very difficult to find a representative at the airport, reaching out via phone or email might be more effective.
Chaos at airports adds to delays
Passengers may also face delays, missed flights or lost luggage because of the shortage of airport personnel such as security staff or baggage handlers. Here, the situation is clear and it is not good news for consumers – to Euroconsumers’ knowledge, no major EU airport has a refund policy in place for people who missed a flight due to their lack of staff, and this is not covered in the Air Passenger Charter.
Although there is no legal right to compensation if problems are caused by airport staffing issues, a good practice precedent may have been set in Ireland. Recently, Dublin Airport announced that it will provide a refund to passengers who have missed their flights and lost money as a result of the recent delays there.
Help available to consumers
Euroconsumers’ national organizations will be there for consumers who can often feel abandoned by the airlines or airports when things go wrong. Here’s a summary of support available from across our membership:
- OCU, Spain: have a dedicated helpline staffed by a team of over 150 experts and consumer lawyers to help consumers resolve complaints or problems they may have whilst travelling or on holiday https://www.ocu.org/ocu-reclamar-vacaciones
- Altroconsumo, Italy: as well as a helpline, Altroconsumo provides template letters for members who need to make a complaint or claim about lost luggage, flight delays or cancellation or an overbooked flight https://www.altroconsumo.it/vita-privata-famiglia/viaggi-tempo-libero
- Deco, Portugal: this week Deco launched their ‘Travel with Rights’ campaign promoted inside airports. They have created a free calculator that shows whether a passenger may be entitled to compensation and if so how much. Voo cancelado ou atrasado | Indemnização | Deco
- Test Achats/Test Aankoop, Belgium: has advice for consumers on things to think about when preparing a trip, what to do if there’s a problem whilst away, and how to claim redress for any problems once they are home again. You can also call them on a dedicated travel hotline: https://www.test-aankoop.be/familie-prive/reizen https://www.test-achats.be/famille-prive/voyage
Unfortunately this year, numerous factors could make getting consumer rights recognized and respected complicated. Euroconsumers’ organizations are there to support people and make sure it goes as smoothly as possible for the many people travelling this summer.