The Commission today adopted a series of proposals designed to improve the experience of passengers and travellers by strengthening their rights. The new rules will build on lessons learned, including the recent experiences of the COVID-19 crisis and the bankruptcy of the travel group Thomas Cook in 2019, which had a major impact both on travellers and on the travel market. In particular, they will clarify rules on reimbursement when flights or multimodal journeys are booked via an intermediary, so that passengers are better protected against cancellations. They will also provide for smoother journeys, especially those involving different travel services or transport modes, ensuring that passengers have access to direct support, and enhanced real-time information, for example on delays and cancellations. Special attention is paid to the needs of passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility to address and facilitate the switch between transport modes and improve quality assistance where needed.
The proposals adopted today focus on 3 aspects:
1. Stronger passenger rights
Passengers travelling by air, rail, ship or bus already enjoy world-renowned protection by EU passenger rights. They are, for example, entitled to rerouting, reimbursement, compensation and/or assistance (depending on the circumstances) if travel is disrupted. Nevertheless, some gaps in today's rules still remain while shortcomings in implementation and enforcement are preventing passengers from fully benefiting from these rights. The proposal for a revision of the Regulations on Passenger Rights addresses these problem areas by strengthening the enforcement mechanisms and introducing rules for air passengers who booked their flights via an intermediary, including on reimbursement. The proposal on passenger rights in the context of multimodal journeys also sets out for the first time, new rules to protect passengers using different types of transport, like buses, trains, and planes, all in one trip. Passengers will enjoy better information rights before and during such travels, including on minimum connecting times between different transport services. In addition, where they bought the multimodal journey under one transport contract, they will be entitled to assistance by the carrier in the event of missed connections. Special attention is paid to the needs of passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility. Persons with reduced mobility who switch from one transport mode to another during their journey will be assisted at connecting points by carriers and terminal operators when they travel under a single contract of carriage or when they travel through multimodal passenger hubs. If an airline obliges a passenger with disabilities or a person with reduced mobility to travel accompanied by someone because the passenger needs assistance to comply with aviation safety requirements (e.g. to fasten the seatbelt), the airline will be obliged to transport the accompanying person free of charge, and when practical, seat this person next to the passenger they are assisting. This right already exists when travelling by rail, ship or bus/coach.
2. Protection of package travellers
With the revision of the 2015 Package Travel Directive, the protection of package travellers will in the future be more effective, in particular, during crisis situations, learning the lessons from the Covid19 pandemic. The proposed amendments will provide stronger and clearer rights for travellers and clarify the obligations and responsibilities of package organisers.
Some of the new rules relate to:
- When it comes to refunds, there is a chain of service providers, package organisers and travellers. Travellers will continued to be entitled to a refund within 14 days. This will be facilitated because package organisers, most of whom are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), will have the right to a refund from service providers within 7 days. The fact that they get their refund within one week, enables them to in turn to refund their clients within two weeks in total.
- Downpayments made by travellers for packages may not be higher than 25% of the package price, except for when organisers face costs justifying a higher downpayment, for example, because they have to pay the full ticket price to the airline upfront. Organisers may not ask for the total payment earlier than 28 days before the start of the package.
- Travellers who are being offered a voucher will receive clear information that they may insist on a refund and will be informed on the characteristics of the voucher before accepting it. Such vouchers will be refunded automatically if not used before the end of their validity period. Moreover, vouchers and refund rights will be covered by insolvency protection.
- Clearer Information: Holidaymakers will receive clear information on whether a combination of travel services constitutes a package, who is liable if there are problems, and on their rights as package travellers.
3. Better multimodal travel information services and the creation of a common European mobility data space
Multimodality, or the combination of transport modes, can reduce overall transport emissions by allowing travellers to choose the most efficient and sustainable mode of transport. The revision of Delegated Regulation on EU-wide multimodal travel information service (MMTIS) will make it easier for passengers to find via travel information services real-time information on different transport modes and access real-time updates during their journey, for example on delays and cancellations. New types of information will also be available, such as whether bikes can be taken onto a train, and on accessibility, including for passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility.
In line with the European Strategy for Data and supported by the Digital Europe Programme, the initiative on a common European mobility data space (EMDS) also adopted today will facilitate access, pooling and sharing of data from existing and future transport and mobility data sources. It will allow access to and sharing of real-time data, enabling the travelling public to stay up to date with the transport situation and traffic conditions, allowing them to plan their journeys better. It will also enable public and private actors for developing innovative transport services and data-driven transport policy-making.
Some 13 billion passengers who travel by plane, train, coach, bus or ferry in the EU every year are covered by EU passenger rights, and many more use local transport. This figure is expected to reach 15 billion by 2030 and almost 20 billion by 2050.
The EU's Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy is the Commission's roadmap to achieving the green and digital transitions. The two go hand-in-hand, as digitalisation increases efficiency and flexibility, which reduces transport emissions. The Strategy sets out how to achieve a 90% reduction in transport emissions by 2050, and sets key milestones, such as deploying automated mobility at large scale by 2030.
For More Information
I welcome the passenger rights package adopted today, that aim to better protect passengers against disruptions during a journey. The new framework will notably provide for smoother journeys, especially those involving different travel services or transport modes, ensuring that passengers have access to the services and assistance they need and enhanced real-time information, for example on delays and cancellations. Incentivising multimodal journeys is all the more important as this type of traveling is more sustainable and efficient, leading to lower transport emissions and thereby contributing to our Green Deal objectives.
Maroš Šefčovič, Executive Vice-President for European Green deal, Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight - 29/11/2023
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic shook up the travel industry and reminded everyone of the importance of guaranteeing strong consumer rights at all times. During the pandemic, consumers faced mass cancellations or struggles as regards refunds from tour operators and travel agencies for cancelled packages. We drew the conclusions of these shortcomings in this revision of the Package Travel Directive, and we decided to step up protection for travellers. The new rules will provide more rights and clearer information for travellers when they book a package. There will be clear rules on vouchers. We will also make the right for a refund bullet-proof. With this proposal, we see concrete solutions to concrete problems.
Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice - 29/11/2023
The EU has the strongest passenger rights frameworks in the world, but that does not mean that we should not do even better, learning from more than a decade of experience in this area. In addition to improving the way existing rules are applied and enforced, we are looking to fix three main gaps with these proposals: First, to ensure passengers are equally well protected and cared for when booking their tickets with intermediaries; second, to extend protections to passengers who combine different modes in one journey; and third, to step up special assistance for passengers with disabilities and ensure that their right to travel in dignity is respected.
Adina Vălean, Commissioner for Transport - 29/11/2023
- Publication date
- 29 November 2023 (Last updated on: 29 November 2023)
- Representation in Cyprus