The European Parliament has backed proposals from the European Commission to strengthen air passenger rights.
MEPs passed the bill to give travellers better rights to information, care and re-routing, when they are stranded at an airport.
The bill, which would apply across the 28 countries in the European Union, would also require airlines to have staff to inform passengers about their rights, as well as laying out procedures for complaints and reimbursements.
The changes are largely in response to problems exposed during the ash cloud crisis in 2010.
Under current rules, airlines do not have to pay compensation for flight delays or cancellations caused by “extraordinary circumstances”.
The proposal from the European Commission would cap the compensation amount to the original cost of the ticket.
The Commission claims that currently only 2% of airline passengers entitled to compensation actually receive it.
"Air passenger rights concern practically every citizen of the European Union," said Georges Bach, the lawmaker responsible for steering the legislation through parliament.
"It's a David versus Goliath story and I believe the text we have voted today strikes a reasonable balance between the airlines and the passenger rights.
“We improved consumer protection on the one hand while recognising the flexibility that this industry requires on the other."
Among the measures proposed by the European Commission are:
- Misspelling: Passengers to have the right to correct a spelling mistake in a name “free of charge”.
- Complaint handling: Passengers to be given the right to a response to their complaint within two months and an acknowledgement of a complaint within a week (there is currently no time limit).
- Right to care: Parliament supports the Commission’s proposal to introduce a right to care for passengers after a delay of two hours, for all flights irrespective of distance.
- Connecting flights: Parliament backs the Commissions’ proposal to clarify that rights to assistance and compensation apply, if you miss your connecting flight because the previous flight was late.
- Luggage: A proposal to give national authorities enforcement powers over lost luggage rules.
European Commission’s vice president Siim Kallas said it’s important air passenger rights don’t just exist on paper.
“We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters most – when things go wrong,” said Kallas.
“We know that the real priority for stranded passengers is just to get home. So our focus is on information, care and effective rerouting.
“The aim is to get passengers where they want to be as quickly as possible while giving the airlines the time they need to sort problems out."
The Council of Transport Ministers and the European Parliament will negotiate a final agreement on the air passenger rights legislation in May 2014.