The International Air Transport Association (IATA) this week called for the implementation of consumer protection regulations in order to address the shared responsibility among all stakeholders when passengers face disruptions.
In this context, IATA also released survey data indicating that the majority of passengers have confidence in airlines treating them fairly during instances of delays and cancellations.
In situations involving delays or cancellations, existing passenger rights regulations typically place the responsibility for care and compensation on the airline, regardless of the party at fault within the aviation chain.
To address this, IATA called on governments to ensure a more equitable distribution of responsibility for flight-related issues across the entire air transport system.
“The aim of any passenger rights regulation surely should be to drive better service,” IATA Director General Willie Walsh said.
“So it makes little sense that airlines are singled out to pay compensation for delays and cancellations that have a broad range of root causes, including air traffic control failures, strikes by non-airline workers, and inefficient infrastructure,” he added.
What is more, Walsh explained that with more governments introducing or strengthening passenger rights regulations, “the situation is no longer sustainable for airlines”.
Moreover, he said that “it has little benefit for passengers because it does not encourage all parts of the aviation system to maximise customer service”.
“On top of this, as costs need to be recouped from passengers, they end up funding this system,” Walsh stated.
“We urgently need to move to a model of ‘shared accountability’ where all actors in the value chain face the same incentives to drive on-time performance,” the IATA chief added.
Meanwhile, the association also stated that the economic deregulation of the airline industry has brought huge benefits over decades, increasing consumer choice, reducing fares, expanding route networks and encouraging new entrants.
“Unfortunately, a trend of re-regulation threatens to undo some of these advances. In the area of consumer protection, more than a hundred jurisdictions have developed unique consumer regulations, with at least a dozen more governments looking to join the group or toughen what they already have,” IATA said.
Furthermore, IATA said that the existing EU 261 Regulation has led to increased delays and rising costs for airlines and passengers.
It added that the European Court of Justice has provided over 70 interpretations of the regulation, expanding its scope beyond the original intentions.
Moreover, the association said that the European Commission, Council, and Parliament should revive the Revision of EU261, which was previously blocked by EU Member States.
Future discussions, IATA stated, should focus on the proportionality of compensation and assigning specific responsibilities to key stakeholders such as airports and air navigation service providers.
It went on to say that it is important to review the regulation, especially as other countries consider adopting it as a global template without recognising its limitations in addressing operational disruption in the aviation industry.
“In refusing to address the issue of distributing accountability more evenly across the system, EU261 has entrenched the service failings of some actors who have no inducement to improve,” Walsh said.
“A classic example is the more than 20-year lack of progress toward the Single European Sky, which would significantly reduce delays and airspace inefficiency across Europe,” he added.