The European Commission is currently reviewing the passenger rights regulatory framework, including to ensure its resilience to extensive travel disruptions, and including options for multimodal tickets.
In EPF’s perspective, the ‘Better protection for passengers and their rights’ initiative needs to address a number of important issues: how to better protect passengers in a multimodal context; harmonizing and enforcing existing rules; extending current protection taking into account lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Currently, EU passenger rights apply only to long-distance trips and only if there is a single contract of carriage (i.e. through ticketing). They do not tackle the issue of disruptions in a multimodal context and do not cover urban and local transport. For multimodal trips, in most cases each operator is only aware of and responsible for the journey segment that they provide themselves. There is no overall guarantee for arrival at the final destination. A missed connection may leave passengers stranded and they may only be able to complete their journey by buying new tickets. An adequate level of protection to passengers when using combinations of different transport modes is needed to make multimodal travel a convenient, reliable and safe choice.
As a minimum, the following basic goals must hereby be pursued:
- In case of disruption, users should receive (real-time and accurate) information about travel alternatives (rerouting);
- In the event of disruptions, the top priority of passengers is a guaranteed arrival at their final destination (which means that cooperation among operators is necessary);
- In case of disruptions, passengers shall be paid reasonable compensation in a timely manner and following simple and easy to understand procedures;
- PRM assistance must be guaranteed and there should be a single point of contact to address in case of a disruption (also in a multimodal context).
The following further issues also need to be considered:
- Passengers are not always adequately informed about their existing rights. Further efforts are needed to increase awareness among passengers about their rights.
- Existing passenger rights regulations need to be better enforced. During the wave of cancellations following the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, passenger rights were not respected.
- Harmonisation of passenger rights across modes should be aimed for, making them easier to understand (for passengers) and apply (for operators). Simplicity works best.
- Some elements, e.g. protection in case of stolen or damaged luggage, are not tackled (to the same extent) for all modes.
- In case of cancellation or delay, it would be useful to inform passengers of the cause and, if needed, on additional services such as where to find meals, entertainment or accommodation.
- Simplified (and faster) procedures for complaint handling and receiving compensation (preferably automatically) are needed. During the Covid-19 crisis, this was clearly a major issue.
- Passengers are generally not protected (except to a certain extent in the case of package travels) against insolvency of the operator.
- The role of intermediaries needs to be clarified: Who informs the passengers about disruptions and who is responsible for complaint handling and reimbursement?
- Passengers who need to cancel their trip because of e.g. travel restrictions or general health risk (which can be considered a form of ‘force majeure’) are not protected.
- Respecting passenger rights should be a precondition for operators to be entitled to state aid. During the Covid-19 crisis, state aid has not been linked to the reimbursement of passengers.