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Queue at Hamburg Airport: Better protection for travellers

Photo: Bodo Marks / dpa

The EU Commission wants to strengthen the rights of air travellers and introduce new rules for package holidays. "The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the travel industry and reminded everyone of the importance of ensuring strong consumer rights at all times," said EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders.

In order to provide more consumer protection for package holidays, the Commission therefore wants the advance payments for such trips to not be higher than 25 percent of the total price – unless the organiser can justify the higher costs.

According to the proposal, travellers who receive a voucher in the event of cancellation must be told that they can insist on a refund of the price. If the vouchers are not redeemed before expiration, they will be automatically refunded. In addition, tour operators are to receive a refund from the airlines or hotels within seven days so that they can pass it on to the travelers within 14 days.

According to the proposal, there will also be new rules apart from package holidays: those who use different means of transport such as buses, trains or planes will be better informed in the future and will receive support from the respective carrier in the event of a missed connection.

The consumer protection organisation Beuc described the proposals as a "small step in the right direction". However, they criticized the lack of protection for passengers when airlines go bankrupt. In addition, passengers lack the right to cancel their tickets free of charge in times of crisis, Beuc said.

Lessons from the pandemic

With the reform, the EU Commission also wants to learn lessons from the Corona pandemic and the bankruptcy of the provider Thomas Cook, which caused mass trips to be cancelled. MEP Jens Gieseke (CDU) called the proposals "well-intentioned". However, he does not expect it to be adopted by the Parliament and member states before the European elections in June.

Criticism was also voiced by the umbrella association of airlines A4E. Furthermore, the question of the "extraordinary circumstances" in which travel providers cannot be asked to pay in the event of cancellations or delays has not been fully clarified. So far, the EU has included natural disasters or attacks, for example.