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Introduction

The International Air Carrier Association (IACA) represents 28 airlines that operate various business models to cater for different demands in the travel market, including low-cost, seat-only and tour operator traffic. Their common feature is efficiency in terms of fleet utilisation and load factor.

Refering to the recent vote at the European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), IACA airline members regret the Committee’s proposal to grant to the traveller the right to cancel the travel contract for two specific reasons:

1. in case the time of departure and return deviates by more than 3 hours

The IMCO MEPs propose that a traveller may withdraw from a package contract without penalty, in case the time of departure and return provided in pre-contractual information diverges by more than three hours from the actual time of departure or return or if it is not within the part of the day indicated in the pre-contractual information (compromise amendment 9, relating to Article 9 paragraph 1a, new).

Today, a package is being assembled by a tour operator a long time ahead of the travel season and at a point in time when hotels are ready to sell their accommodation, but when schedules of airlines have not been definitely planned. Air carriers indeed can only finalize their schedules later in the year after travelling group consolidation and when they are certain of slots as well as availability of aircraft, crew, ground handling services at the destination, etc.

Tour operators should continue to be able to sell holiday packages with the best available information on planned flight schedules. This process is in the best interests of both the travel industry and the travelling public, allowing holidays to be planned a long time ahead at the best possible price.

Therefore, a maximum deviation of 3 hours allowing the traveller to withdraw from the contract is disproportionate. For a typical long holiday (e.g. the yearly 2 weeks’ escape with the family), a deviation of 3 hours (actual compared to pre-contractual) cannot be considered as an essential part of the package.

This new constraint would fundamentally jeopardize the very nature of leisure flights and would challenge the availability of affordable holiday travel.

2. in case of extraordinary circumstances occurring to the traveller

The IMCO Committee also endorsed an amendment proposed by the Parliament’s Transport Committee (amendment TRAN 71), which would give a right to a traveller to terminate the contract before the start of the package without compensation in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occurring to the traveller, in particular severe accident, serious illness, or death in the family, provided that these incidents are appropriately documented.

Today, the risk of such an unfortunate event occurring in a traveller’s life is usually covered in an insurance, which a traveller is free to subscribe.

Incidents that occur in a travellers’ life are clearly events that are outside any control of travel service providers and therefore IACA member airlines cannot accept that the travel industry should assume that risk for all package travellers. 

IACA member airlines hence call upon the European legislator to reject these proposals from the IMCO Committee as they are unsustainable for the successful continuation of package sales.