Majority of British tourists unaware of their rights as an air passenger

Research from Travelzoo reveals there is a lack of understanding among British travellers regarding their rights as an airline passenger.

The company's ‘Understanding Air Passenger Rights’ survey reveals the majority of Brits (82%) either have no idea or only have a rough understanding about their passenger rights if they are bumped off a flight.

British travellers feel it’s hard to understand what their rights are and think passenger rights should be clearer.

If you have booked a flight that departed from Europe or are flying with a European airline, you’re entitled to a full refund if your flight is cancelled, unless this is due to extraordinary circumstances. However, only two fifths (43%) of UK consumers are aware of this.

The survey also revealed that 74% of respondents don’t realise that they don’t have to take a flight that has been delayed by more than five hours and that the airline legally has to give booked passengers a full refund, as well as food and drink and overnight accommodation in some cases.

Adding to this, 36% of those polled believe different airlines within Europe offer different compensation for affected travel. In reality, the same passenger compensation rights apply to all inbound and outbound flights within the EU, as outlined in Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.

The research follows on from news stories about passengers being forced off of airlines due to overbooking. As a result of recent incidents, 37% of respondents say the situation has got out of control and that airlines should be held accountable. However, it’s worth noting that airlines do legally have the right to deny boarding for passengers. When a flight is overbooked, an airline must first call for volunteers who are willing to give up their reservation for the flight. If there are not enough volunteers, then an airline will be forced to deny boarding to passengers against their will - only 36% of UK travellers know these rules around overbooking.

The company's president, Richard Singer, said: “There is clearly a lack of understanding of passenger rights when flying. While the information is available, it’s hard to find, complicated to understand, and even more difficult to submit a claim. Those entitled to compensation are either unaware that they are or don’t bother trying to claim because they perceive the process as being too much hassle.”

Airlines are currently facing numerous challenges including the complication of a possible laptop ban which would affect travel from the UK to the US. Currently passengers are restricted from taking laptops, tablets and e-readers over 16cm long onto flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tunisia, instead having to put them in the hold. This, along with other circumstances out of their control, such as delays and cancellations, means it’s important that consumers know their rights, but also that they are aware of the rights an airline has too.

Singer believes the current confusion around passenger rights poses an ideal opportunity for airlines to gain trust from British tourists. He said: “While clearer information about regulations is required, there is also the chance to be proactive in helping customers claim their rightful compensation. By implementing a system where passengers who are entitled to a claim are automatically notified, airlines stand to reap the benefits of customer loyalty through turning an unavoidable situation of disrupted travel into something that distinguishes them from others.” 

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