Business Travel Tech Talk London, 16 October,
Business Travel Awards Europe, 30 October, JW
3rd Annual Business Travel Intelligence Summit
As 28,000 bags continue not to be in their owners” possession ” and rather extraordinarily appear to have been routed via Milan for sorting ” the Terminal”s woes have highlighted an area that has vexed legislators and customers alike for years.
There were initial reports of irate passengers only being given ”100 as compensation for enforced overnight hotel stays while the cancellations racked up ” and as hotels reportedly seized on the chance to make a quick buck ” only for British Airways (BA) to say it would refund the accommodation.
This from BA as of today: ”We will compensate passengers for cancelled flights, hotel accommodation, food and drink and transport costs relating to the disruption to flights at Terminal 5 in accordance with the EU regulations.”
So what are those EU regulations? The European Union ” in a rare display of acting for the hard-pressed passenger ” clearly states that if customers are denied boarding against their will and if flights are cancelled or delayed ” then various levels of compensation will kick in.
If cancellation occurs, people have the right to ticket reimbursement within seven days or a return flight to the first point of departure and re-routing to a final destination. In addition, care, defined as refreshments, meals, hotel accommodation (including transport) and two free telephone calls, must be provided.
Concrete compensation of ”250 for flights of 1,500km or less, ”400 for all intra-Community services of more than 1,500km and for all others between 1,500km and 3,500km and ”600 for all other operations, must be offered.
But contrast this fairly generous deal with that offered in the US, which is er, not much. Indeed, the National Business Travel Association (NBTA), submitted a filing a couple of months ago to the US Department of Transportation (DOT ” never let it be said the Americans can”t do acronyms as well as the Europeans) detailing specific compensation packages.
In an exhaustive proposal, the NBTA finally gets to the rub: ”NBTA proposes that DOT ”require that carriers compensate travellers the greater part of $400 or half of their airfare for travellers involuntarily denied boarding and arriving at their destination within two hours of their scheduled arrival time [and] the grater part of $800 or half of their airfare for travellers involuntarily denied boarding and arriving at their destination more than two hours after their scheduled arrival time.”
Phew, quite a mouthful, but it addresses a fundamental right that already exists in Europe, but not apparently not as much in the States. It seems extraordinary that in one, if not the, world”s largest travel market, the NBTA feels obliged to make such a request to the DOT.
One North American carrier has decided tackle the issue head on however. For a price. Speaking to ABTN last week in Istanbul as Turkish Airlines joined Star Alliance, Air Canada CEO Montie Brewer outlined his airline”s brand new scheme to assist stranded passengers.
Known as ”On My Way” ” or not on my way as one journalistic wag commented ” Air Canada passengers ” having previously booked either the C$25 or C$35 option depending on sector length ” will be able to access free hotel accommodation and food in North America and Hawaii.
”With the low fares we have, the next thing is to take care of our customers, who can buy enhanced service during irregular operations,” said Brewer. ”You ring a dedicated call centre with a maximum one minute answer and they will put you on another airline or flight and take care of [any necessary] hotel.”
As Brewer put it, the passenger doesn”t have to ”go back and argue” about the issue ” it”s automatically resolved. But why should the passenger have to fork out yet another tranche of cash for something that a large part of the rest of the world regards as basic?
Yes, there may well be more room for a full and frank exchange of views if the airline plays up in Europe, but the EU is quite clear on passenger rights. Isn”t it about time that North America caught up?
At last week”s bash to celebrate Austrian Airline”s 50th birthday, the good and the great of Viennese society ” including the remarkable Nikki Lauda ” gathered in one of the airline”s cavernous hangars to toast the occasion.
All 2,000 guests packed into what effectively was an aircraft fuselage mock-up complete with, admittedly an extremely impressive take-off, cruise and landing simulation.
Politicians, airline chiefs past and present, a line-up of original 1958 hosties - all were dutifully introduced by the compere, a middle-aged man in rather dapper black tie.
The evening proceeded with introductions, speeches and a look back across five decades of Austrian. Until the end. That”s when Mein Host startlingly burst into song, and not just any old tune either.
Austrian had titled its aircraft mock-up ”Timewarp,” and our friend launched into the Rocky Horror classic with a gusto that was truly impressive, including all the requisite ”jump to the lefts” that the number requires. Who was that man? Anyone else at the event, please enlighten us - he certainly provided an entertainingly surreal end to the evening.