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European Commission says air travel disruption is unacceptab

European Commission Vice President Siim Kallas, who is responsible for transport, says the level of disruption to travel across Europe caused by severe snow is “unacceptable and should not happen again”.

In a statement last week following the news of thousands of passengers unable to travel in Europe due to extreme weather, Siim Kallas said this has to be taken into account in contingency planning which is the responsibility of Member States.

He said: “The European Commission is monitoring the situation very closely and is in constant touch with airlines, airports, rail operators and national authorities responsible for passenger rights.

“In recent days, I have become increasingly concerned about the problems relating to the infrastructure available to airlines – airports and ground handling – during this severe period of snow. It seems at this stage that this is a ‘weak link’ in a chain which, under pressure, is contributing to severe disruption.”

The EC Vice President said he intended to meet with airports representatives “in the coming days” to ask for further explanations and assess what is necessary to make sure they would be able to operate more effectively in similar situations in the future.  

“Airports must get serious about planning for this kind of severe weather conditions,” he said, adding that in recent years snow in Western Europe “is not such an exceptional circumstance” and airports need to prepare in line with what is done in Northern Europe.

Siim Kallas went as far as saying that, if necessary, the European Commission is prepared to provide support in terms of regulation on minimum service requirements for airports in this area.

When it comes to passenger rights, Europe has put in place a safety net of rights designed to help passengers in cases of difficulties with issues such as overbooking or cancellations. Since early this year, that safety net of rights also covers rail passengers, and in the future will extend to ship, inland waterways, bus and coaches.

“What we need for the future is to make sure that there is proportionate responsibility and risk sharing between all the operators in the supply chain, in particular when it comes to air travel, and this also includes passengers,” he concluded.