Chapter 14: The Volcanic Ash Crisis and EU Air Passenger Rights
Nick Bernard 14.1 INTRODUCTION The volcanic ash crisis gave Regulation 261/20041 on air passenger rights in case of denied boarding, long delays or cancellation of ﬂights, if not its baptism of ﬁre – the Regulation has had a good ﬁve years to bed down since it came into force – nonetheless a serious challenge to its ability to cope with unusual events giving rise to prolonged air travel disruptions. Indeed, some voices in the industry have questioned, sometimes in strong or colourful language, whether the Regulation was meant to apply to such situations as the volcanic ash crisis at all.2 While most airlines have accepted, under the pressure from the EU Commission and national regulators, that passengers may be entitled to the ‘right to care’ under article 9 of the Regulation, it is clear that some have done so under protest and remain unconvinced that the Regulation should apply to events of similar magnitude.3 While, as will be discussed below, the case for the non-applicability of the Regulation to the ash crisis situation is unconvincing, it remains true that the mechanisms established by the Regulation do give rise to difﬁculties in such a situation, not just from the airlines’ perspective but also from that of passengers. Whether or not the Regulation was meant to apply to the situation, it still does not entirely solve the question of who should eventually bear the cost of caring for passengers. At best, determining whether the Regulation applies enables us to decide whether passengers or...
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