Bad luck seems to follow Mattia Zenere, 31, on his travels of late.
In the past five years, four of its flights have been long delayed or cancelled, including a mishap on a trip from London to Venice, Italy, that caused it to arrive a full day late.
But there’s a silver lining: Thanks to Europe’s strong consumer protection rules for airlines, in each case, the customer service professional was reimbursed for their out-of-pocket costs. Mr. Zenere also received an additional hardship payment from the airline for three of the outages.
“The law really works,” he said.
For fed-up air travelers in the US, similar protections could be on the horizon, and airlines aren’t happy about it. This week, President Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, announced plans to introduce new rules this year that would require airlines to pay for the travel disruptions they cause.
Following waves of pandemic-era flight disruptions and the fiasco that forced Southwest Airlines to cancel 16,700 flights Around the winter break, Biden is betting that Americans will want the kind of protections that Europeans (and non-Europeans who fly into Europe) have enjoyed for nearly 20 years.
EU law is popular and generous. A flight delayed by more than three hours is considered canceled, and the passenger is entitled to compensation of between 250 euros (273 dollars) and 600 euros. Payment is determined by flight distance, not ticket price, which airlines they have protested for a long time.
Airlines can challenge the payments by arguing that the outage was caused by extraordinary circumstances, such as bad weather, a strike by air traffic controllers or an “out of the ordinary” technical problem with the plane. But European courts continue to narrow the definition of “extraordinary.” This week, one ruled that even the death of a co-pilot does not prevent an airline from reimbursing customers for a delay.
Biden’s plan would require cash refunds for significant delays or cancellations. The president also wants travelers to be compensated for meals, hotels, ground transportation and rebooking fees. US airlines are not currently required offer cash compensation for delays or cancellations; they must compensate passengers who are “turned away” from flights.
That’s not enough, Biden said. “You deserve to be fully compensated. Your time matters. The impact on your life is important.”
European legislation has changed the way airlines schedule flights, “With a particular focus now on arrival timeliness,” a spokesman for Eurocontrol, the intergovernmental organization that helps manage Europe’s commercial airspace, told DealBook. Still, as air travel increases, EU flight data shows that delays will be a growing problem.
Airlines oppose compensation laws. “Airlines already have financial incentives to get their passengers to their destination as planned,” Willie Walsh, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, a lobby group, said in a sentence criticizing Biden’s plan. “The additional layer of spending that this regulation will impose will not create a new incentive, but it will have to be recovered, which will likely have an impact on ticket prices.” Steer Group, an independent consultancy, calculated that in 2018, European airlines incurred combined costs of €5 billion to process the volume of compensation claims and pay meritorious ones. For each affected passenger, the airline incurred an average cost of 138 euros.
The European regulation of air passenger rights has not been a panacea. It can still be time consuming and frustrating to secure the claim money. Zenere, for example, is still in dispute with Wizz Air, the airline that delayed his trip to Venice last year. They underpaid, he said, and still owe him 250 euros for the aborted trip. “I know my rights,” he said. —Bernhard Warner
Tell us what you think: What changes would you like to see to make the air travel experience more seamless? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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It was released yesterday (some fans he took the day off to play) and it is expected to be a success. But will it be enough to offset the slowdown in Nintendo’s sales? The company last released a new console, the Switch, in 2017, the same year it released its latest Zelda game, Breath of the Wild. Both were highly successful. But the Switch is facing increasing competition, and gamers are moving away from buying expensive hardware in general. New ventures, such asThe Super Mario Bros. movieThey have provided a boost. But Nintendo has no plans to launch a crucial new console within the next year.
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29 million: Sold copies of Breath of the Wild, Nintendo’s most popular Zelda game.
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$69.99: Tears of the price of the Kingdom, a $10 increase from what Nintendo usually charges for new games.
125 million: Total number of Switch consoles Nintendo has sold as of March 31, according to the company’s website.
15 million: Number of Switch consoles Nintendo expects to sell this fiscal year, after selling 18 million Switch units in the year to March. “It will be difficult to maintain the sales momentum of Switch in its seventh year,” Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa said on a call with investors this week, according to Bloomberg.
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