The European Commission said on Wednesday that the outbreak of the coronavirus is an “extraordinary circumstance”, and should excuse airlines from paying passengers for cancelled or delayed flights.
The view was set out in guidelines on how to interpret the EU’s passenger rights legislation given the delays and cancellations in air, rail, bus and waterborne travel due to the coronavirus.
For air passenger rights, the Commission said it “considers that, where public authorities take measures intended to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, such measures are by their nature and origin not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of carriers and are outside their actual control.”
The Commission also said that disruptions to schedules make it difficult or impossible to re-route cancelled flights at the earliest opportunity, normally an obligation for airlines.
“‘The earliest opportunity’ may under the circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak imply considerable delay, and the same may apply to the availability of concrete information on such ‘opportunity’ given the high level of uncertainty affecting air traffic,” the Commission said.
The guidelines ruled out a request from airlines to limit their obligation to provide meals and accommodation for stranded passengers — known as the right to care — to three nights and €100 per day. “The air carrier is therefore not exempted from all of its obligations [on the right to care] … even during a long period,” the Commission said.
Railways should notify passengers in advance of disruption to services and are still liable to pay compensation for delays, according to the guidelines. However, the paper notes that “unlike in other transport modes, the existence of extraordinary circumstances … does not affect the right to compensation in cases of delays.”
Source: Politico, EUBusiness