Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Regulation 261 - an insane standard for pax service

Regulation 261/2004 covers EU air passenger rights and airlines’ obligations in case of delays, cancellations, flight changes from airline’s side and other disorders. One of the main rules is airlines’ duty to give meals and to accommodate the delayed passengers. This regulation was presented like a triumph from consumer right protection organizations. Indeed - the punctuality now is top priority for all airlines as the passenger assisting expanses are undesirable. The recent airspace closure above parts of Europe had put an enormous financial challenge for air carriers – to assist stranded passengers from hundreds of flights for several days. Of course – most of airlines tried to escape this declaring that the delays are beyond airline’s control. We will see some legal actions against the airlines for breaking this regulation but I want to turn to the fundamental problems in the spirit of Regulation 261/2004:
1. It puts the expanses and responsibility of delayed passenger service on shoulders of airlines. Even if the delay is due to weather conditions or – more unfairly – government institutions which are not financially responsible for consequences of their decisions, the expanses are covered by airlines
2. The regulations are applied just to airlines and not train, ferry and coach operators.
3. The biggest problem – it regulates what shouldn’t be regulated at all. Airline’s dealing with delayed flight has nothing to do with safety issues which are the main objects of usual regulations. Keeping passengers happy is a pure example of ground service and it must be up to airlines how they position their brand and how keep people flying with them. A good example of good service is Volaris from Mexico – if a flight is more than 30 minutes late passengers receive a gift certificate for further flights valued 50-100% (depending on booking class) of the price paid for the delayed flight. This gives a great target for employees to arrive on-time and is one element why Volaris is the most loved airline in Mexico. And this policy comes from an airline, not from the government.
Government still could regulate required information about the product costumers buy. Airlines can be pushed to clearly define what type of help passengers receive in case of delayed/cancelled flight, up to what time the airline keep the rights to make  changes in the ticket and other areas of costumer service, leaving the product and price up to the market.

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