24 November 2008, Nieuwspoort The Hague – Ministry of Transport (MoT) – Press Conference
MoT Pressrelease – Speeches BARIN Vice Chairman, Dutch Consumentenbond Director, Dutch Minister of Transport, and Vice President European Commission

24 November 2008
Air Transport Arbitration Board with a European perspective to be Established

BARIN (Board of Airline Representatives in the Netherlands) and the National Consumers’ Association have reached an agreement in principle about the establishment of an arbitration board for air transport. For passengers, the setting up of this arbitration board represents a low threshold, quick and inexpensive way to resolve disputes with airlines. The arbitration board is expected to take up its duties in the 2009 summer holiday season.

In April 2008, Minister Eurlings gave the air transport sector(members of BARIN) and consumer organizations the opportunity to maximally advocate passenger rights through self-regulation, as a well functioning system for settling disputes requires a proper support base in the sector. The Minister responded positively to the parties’ own solution: “In the Netherlands we are showing that together we can constructively solve the challenges facing air transport. Great gains have been made for both passengers and the sector.” The Minister no longer sees a need for bringing legislation into the procedure for setting up such arbitration boards.

The air transport arbitration board will fall under the Consumer Affairs Arbitration Boards Foundation. The parties will work out the exact composition of the arbitration board in the months ahead. The Minister supports a uniform arbitration procedure within the European Union and therefore regards the Dutch air transport arbitration board as a blueprint for possible future European arbitration boards.

Passengers may contact the arbitration board when, in their opinion, an airline has not complied with European regulations governing passengers’ rights. This could be, for example, when boarding is denied, when flights are cancelled, in case of long delays or when persons with physical disabilities encounter problems during a journey. In addition, the board will deal with complaints of passengers who have bought a ticket from an airline that is on the black list of the European Union.

For more information please contact
The Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management,
Karin van Rooijen,+31 ( 07) 035 17794
BARIN, Board of Airline Repersentatives In the Netherlands
Frank Allard, +31 (0) 23 5267 207
Consumers’ Association (Consumentenbond),
Sanne-Marije van Arend, +31 (07)044 54469

Le 24 novembre 2008
La commission du contentieux pour l’aviation civile avec un perspective Europien verra le jour

Le BARIN (Board of Airline Representatives in the Netherlands) et le Consumentenbond (union néerlandaise des consommateurs) ont trouvé un accord de principe sur l’instauration d’une commission du contentieux pour l’aviation civile. Pour les passagers, l’arrivée de cette commission signifie qu’ils pourront désormais résoudre leurs différends avec les compagnies aériennes dans le cadre d’une procédure accessible, rapide et économique.
L’objectif est de faire en sorte que cette commission du contentieux soit opérationnelle dès l’été 2009 afin que les consommateurs puissent déjà faire appel à ses services durant la haute saison.

En avril 2008, le ministre néerlandais des Transports Eurlings a donné l’occasion au secteur de l’aviation civile (rassemblé au sein du BARIN) et aux organisations de défense des consommateurs de défendre au maximum les droits des passagers par le moyen de l’autorégulation. Pour un traitement efficace des différends, le secteur a en effet besoin d’un consensus suffisamment large. La solution avancée par les parties a donc suscité une réaction positive de la part du ministre. « Nous montrons ainsi que nous sommes capables aux Pays-Bas de relever ensemble et de façon constructive les défis de l’aviation. Cette solution est extrêmement bénéfique tant pour les passagers que pour le secteur de l’aviation », a déclaré le ministre, qui ne voit plus aucune nécessité de légiférer pour instaurer une telle commission du contentieux.

La commission du contentieux est placée dans l’organisation de la Stichting Geschillencommissies voor Consumentenzaken (fondation des commissions du contentieux pour la défense des consommateurs). Les attributions exactes de la commission du contentieux seront précisées par les parties au cours des prochains mois. Le ministre plaide pour une procédure univoque de règlement des litiges au sein de l’Union européenne et considère donc la commission néerlandaise du contentieux dans l’aviation civile comme l’exemple sur lequel pourrait être calquée une future commission européenne du contentieux.

Les passagers peuvent s’adresser à la commission du contentieux lorsqu’ils estiment que les compagnies aériennes ne respectent pas les règles européennes relatives aux droits des passagers. Il s’agit ici des arrêtés sur le refus d’embarquement, les annulations ou les retards prolongés et les droits des handicapés ou des personnes dont la mobilité est limitée. La commission se penchera également sur les réclamations des passagers ayant acheté un billet d’une compagnie aérienne figurant sur la liste noire en Europe.

Short Statement by the BARIN Vice Chairman Bram Gräber at the occasion of the official signing by the BARIN Vice Chairman Bram Gräber and the Director of the Consumentenbond Felix Cohen of the agreement reached by BARIN ( Board of Airline Representatives In the Netherlands) and the Consumentenbond (Dutch Consumer Association) on the starting points for realising an alternative dispute resolution body for air travel, during a press gathering at Nieuwspoort-The Hague on 24 November 2008 at 11.30 hours, in the presence of the vice-president of the European Union Antonio Tajani, the minister Transport of The Netherlands Camiel Eurlings, Chairman of the BARIN Government Affairs Steering Committee Coen Waasdorp, and the Director Civil Aviation of the Ministry of Transport mrs. Ellen Bien

Excellencies, ladies and gentleman,

Speaking on behalf of the 77 airlines active in The Netherlands, united in the Board of Airline Representatives, it is with pleasure we present to you today the agreement we reached with the Dutch Consumer Association on the starting points for realising an alternative dispute resolution body for air travel. Although the agreement we present to you today it a typical Dutch product, the airlines active in the Netherlands, take this agreement as a first step of a European solution for passengers and airlines, to address their possible issues.

Allow me to explain on which factors this pleasure today is based. There are three key elements.

The first is described by the word clarity. In the field of air passengers’ rights we have been seeing in Europe and The Netherlands quite some controversy. Many opinions were expressed loudly, and in many cases high expectations were raised. By the agreement reached today we will come to a clearer, and for the air travelling consumer recognizable, body to address concerns with their rights. This is for cases they are not able to come to resolution with the airlines involved directly. This new clarity should solve some of the controversy mentioned, and is a good step forward for all directly involved; passengers, airlines and the legal system. We call upon the authorities to ensure the set-up will become applicable also for the non members of BARIN.

Second element of the agreement entails pragmatism and specificity for air travel taken into account.

As airlines offering operate in a very international context, and many regulations already exist, it is important to built a model for alternative dispute resolution that is both pragmatic and feasible, given, for example the fact only 4 out of 77 airlines in BARIN have their home base and head quarter in The Netherlands, and conditions of carriage in most cases apply worldwide per carrier. A focus on European regulations for air passenger’s rights and arbitration law as starting points, have helped to come to a sound and workable solution. We are happy this specificity was respected, leading to a customized set-up.

Third element is the stepping stone for a European solution. With arbitration law as its basis, clear definition of those eligible, and a scope entailing the European regulations for air travel, all design ingredients are provided to also have consumers in other European markets benefit from this form of alternative dispute resolution.
Next to this clear consumer interest, also for the airlines a level playing field, meaning the further extension of the ADRA to other European countries, is key. In this context we appreciate very much the symbolic setting of our session today, and especially the interest of Mr. Tajani, the EU commissioner for transport. We call upon all partners involved in the establishment of the solution for The Netherlands to continue to work on the extension beyond this market.

In conclusion. It was Confucius, who once said; a long journey starts with a first step. Although the strengthening of passenger rights is not a new journey, today in the Netherlands we make a first step in making, in a pragmatic way, progress in how passengers’ and airlines interact in addressing rights of passengers in a more appropriate way, throughout the complete European Union.

Thank you

Note for Editors:
The BARIN is the trade association for the civil air transportation in The Netherlands, and is one of the larger BAR’s in Europe, with 77 airlines in membership.
BARIN Objectives:
1. To encourage and promote, in The Netherlands and elsewhere, the interests of regular airlines engaged in the carriage of passengers and cargo to, from and within The Netherlands.
2. To represent the interests of the member airlines so that the best possible conditions for successful civil aviation in The Netherlands are created.
Our objectives are achieved by representing our members in dealings with many industry participants, including:
• Politicians
• Government Departments
• Regulators
• Airport Operators

Bezoek voor de volledige BARIN ledenlijst de BARIN website www.barin.nl , knop “BARIN members” en voor meer informatie o.m. “BARIN Points of View” , knop “Members Room”
BARIN Media Relations, email office@barin.nl , tel./sms: 023-5267207, fax.: 023 5265811
BARIN Woordvoering Frank Allard – Secretaris Generaal
BARIN Websites : www.barin.nl www.ikverticket.nl . BARs in Europe www.barinfo.org
Key to abreviations:
ADRA = Alternative Dispute Resolution for Aviation
BARIN = Board of Airline Representatives In the Netherlands
BASC = BARIN ADRA Steering Committee

Speech Felix Cohen, Director Consumentenbond,
Press briefing ADR Air Passengers 24th November 2008

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

This is a great day for consumers, because we have reached an agreement that was hardly conceivable only a few years ago.

Let me explain this with an example. I remember a case of one of our members who booked a ticket to London to visit a musical with his new wife. Having arrived at the airport they found out that their flight was delayed and eventually cancelled. The next flight was later that night, but for our member that would be too late because he would miss the show. The airline only offered him some flowers and their apologies, but this could not wash away their disappointment and frustration.

The new European rules gave air passengers, amongst them our member and his wife, better rights in this situation. But, as the example shows, having rights is one thing, being able to realize them is another…

I believe the establishment of a Dutch Alternative Dispute Resolution-committee for air passengers makes it possible for consumers to realize their rights. Independently, easily, quickly and without high costs. That is a big step forward.

I would like to thank our minster of Transport Camiel Eurlings for his efforts to bring industry and consumers together. His family name starts with EU. That can’t be a coincidence, because he is a true European and will be an advocate for European Alternative Dispute Resolution for all European air passengers.

I would like to thank Mr Tajani for the attention the European Commission has paid to the position of the consumer.
I am convinced that a better market of air traffic starts with a strong position of the consumer. I hope the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee that will be established in the Netherlands will be a blueprint for a uniform European procedure. I am convinced that Commissioner Tajani and his colleague Ms Kuneva, at the post for consumer affairs, will support this procedure.

Finally I would like to thank the BARIN for their willingness to make progress and – eventually – to reach this result together.
The signing of the agreement in a few moments is an important milestone, but not the end of the road. I sincerely hope that very soon we can meet again to welcome the first European Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme for Air passengers.

Thank you.

Speaking notes Camiel Eurlings, Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, on the occasion of the conclusion of the agreement on an Air Transport Arbitration Board, in The Hague, on 24 November 2008

• I am very pleased that we have reached this milestone today, in the presence of Vice President Tajani of the European Commission.

• Your agreement has cleared the way for an independent air transport arbitration board in the Netherlands. A board that will be supported by consumers and airlines together. The expectation is that from next summer passengers from the Netherlands will be able to take their complaints to this arbitration board. Quickly, easily and without great expense.

• I am especially happy about this result because I am convinced that the interests of consumers are best served by an initiative that comes from the actual parties involved. This means that there is a real support base in the sector to safeguard the interests of consumers.

• This arbitration board is a good example of self-regulation. It is also a good example of thinking ahead.

• Our goal is to establish a uniform arbitration procedure for all citizens of the European Union regardless of with which airline they fly. A procedure that is transparent, fair and efficient.

• That is why it means so much that Mr Tajani is in our midst today. Mr Tajani, as European Commissioner for Transport you represent the interests of the European air transport sector and of European air travellers. You stand for a level playing field: for equal opportunities and possibilities for everyone involved in international traffic within Europe.

• The Netherlands supports you in this ambition and we would like to make a concrete contribution. Our arbitration board is set up in such a way as to provide a blueprint for a future European arbitration board. I hope that this will come soon and I will promote its establishment to the full.

• The Netherlands is showing that it can record results. That we can make our air transport stronger and better as long as the parties involved sit down at the table and find constructive solutions together. I would like to wish consumers and airlines the best of luck with this excellent result!

• Together we are working towards improving the position of consumers in the air transport sector.

• Mr Tajani, our arbitration board is ‘Europe-proof’. But work still has to be done before all passengers in Europe will be able to use a single procedure. You will find the Netherlands at your side as you pursue your goal of creating more uniformity and clarity for air travellers. We are ‘ready for take-off’.

Speech Antonio Tajani Vice-President of the European Commission at the Presentation of the National Civil Aviation Arbitration Board of the Netherlands, during the Vice-President Tajani’s official visit to the Netherlands in The Hague, on 24 November 2008

Les transports sont indissociables de notre quotidien: ils fournissent un emploi à des millions de personnes, nous permettent de répondre à nos besoins jour après jour et nous emmènent vers nos vacances. À mesure que les responsabilités de l’UE mûrissent et s’étoffent, les citoyens attendent davantage des institutions européennes.
J’ai fait de la protection des droits des passagers une des priorités de mon mandat. Cette priorité se traduit sur deux volets:
a) assurer que la legislation déjà en vigeur pour les secteurs aériens est respectée par les compagnies et qu’elle est appliquée correctement par les états membres.
b) puis élargir la protection dont les passagers aériens disposent déjà à la totalité des modes de transports, notamment maritime et coach.
Le but du règlement est premièrement de fournir aux passagers suffisament d’assistance et d’information sur place et au moment où l’interruption de leur voyage se produit, afin de les aider à arriver le plus rapidement possible et dans les meilleures conditions à leur destination.
Les compagnies aériennes et les administrations nationales, ont la responsabilité d’assurer l’ application correcte du règlement. Elles doivent faire de leur mieux pour assurer qu’en cas d’incidents, les passagers reçoivent l’information, l’assistance et les choix pour la continuation de leur voyage et ce d’une façon inmédiate et automatique.
C’est dans l’intêret des passagers, mais aussi des compagnies aériennes, de pouvoir disposer d’un moyen extra-judiciaire, non couteux et rapide, qui leur permette d’essayer de trouver une solution en cas de problèmes lors d’un trajet en avion.
Plusieurs Etats membres ont déjà mise en place un système qui permette au passager de s’addresser facilement à un organisme d’arbitrage. Ceci leur évite en principe d’avoir recours à un processus judiciaire quand ils n’arrivent pas à trouver satisfaction auprès de la compagnie. Je felicite les autorités néerlandaises d’avoir suivi aussi cette approche.
Il faut néanmoins rester attentifs. Le règlement exige aux autorités nationales de contrôle d’assurer non seulement le suivi des plaintes individuelles des passagers, mais l’application correcte du règlement par les compagnies aériennes.
Les accords volontaires passés entre les autorités nationales de contrôle ainsi qu’avec les compagnies aériennes semblent avoir amélioré la situation, mais il reste encore beaucoup à faire au niveau éuropéen pour garantir aux passagers, non seulement sur le papier, mais aussi en pratique, le même niveau de protection partout en Europe.
C’est pourquoi j’ai convoqué une réunion le 2 décembre à Bruxelles avec toutes les parties intéressées –compagnies aériennes, organisations des passagers, administrations en charge du contrôle-. J’ai aussi demandé la coopération des autorités nationales pour obtenir des données sur l’état de la situation.
Cette réunion et ces informations serviront de base à la Commission pour analyser l’état actuel de la situation par rapport à tous les droits des passagers aériens. Je proposerai au Collège d’adopter une Communication en 2009 qui reprendra les conclusions de cette analyse et le plan d’action futur de la Commission dans ce domaine.

Entretemps, nous devons tous, les institutions européennes et les administrations nationales de contrôle, nous efforcer de communiquer le plus efficacement possible sur notre action. Les informations sur les droits des passagers doivent être rendues plus accessibles à tous les citoyens européens pour leur expliquer l’importance de la politique des transports et de ses retombées sur leur quotidien.

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