By Marine Strauss
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will consider raising from three hours the minimum flight delay for which passengers can receive financial compensation, a move that could cut airlines’ costs, according to a document seen by Reuters.
Under EU rules, travelers are entitled to up to 600 euros ($663.24) if a flight is delayed by at least three hours or canceled less than 14 days before departure. They can also receive compensation if they are denied boarding.
But some national authorities and courts have criticized the rules, saying member states struggle to process the large number of claims they receive, and airlines’ compensation payments have grown because the number of delays and cancellations has risen.
Croatia, which holds the six-month EU presidency, has proposed amending the rules on compensation for delays and cancellations at talks among EU governments on revising passengers’ rights that are due to start in the coming weeks.
The European Commission, the EU executive, submitted a revised proposal in 2013 to increase the minimum flight delay from three to five years but negotiations stalled after that.
In an informal document circulated among member states, Croatia has proposed keeping the level of compensation the same as now for passengers, but suggested increasing the minimum flight delay for which airlines must make payments.
Zagreb made the proposals “in order to take account of the high financial burden for airlines and of the fact that delays are less and less imputable to airlines,” the document said.
The document did not say what Croatia wanted the new minimum delay to be for passengers to claim compensation, or how long before departure flights would have to be canceled for travelers to be compensated.
The number of canceled flights in the EU increased by 70% between 2011 and 2018, while delayed flights rose by 56%, according to a study from the European Commission published last week.
In 2018, 17.6 million passengers were affected by a cancellations and 16.5 million by a long delay.
Any agreement among EU governments to change the rules in force since 2005 would still have to be vetted by the European Commission and the European Parliament before approval.
(Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine, editing by Robin Emmott and Timothy Heritage)