No more shoulder shrugs and misleading information in the event of cancelled or overbooked flights: under new European Union proposals approved yesterday, stranded passengers will be able to claim hundreds of pounds in compensation and be entitled to hot meals and hotel rooms. The new legislation is one of the biggest shake-ups in favour of consumer rights to have ever hit the airline industry. On occasions, provided an unusually high proportion of passengers with tickets check in, some customers find that they are moved to a later flight, a practice known as bumping. Under the proposals the minimum level of compensation that a bumped passenger can claim will double. Apparently more than 250'000 passengers a year arrive at the airport for their flight only to find they've been double-booked or their flight has been cancelled. If the legislation goes through as expected, bumped passengers on short haul flights - commonly defined as flights of fewer than 1'900 miles - can expect a minimum of £125 in compensation. The EU did want long haul customers to receive a minimum of £380 for being bumped, but that has been over ruled. Passengers who have their flight cancelled will also be entitled to compensation at the same level. All delayed passengers will have the right to hot meals and free hotel accommodation. To the relief of the EU's bigger airlines, yesterday the European Parliament slashed the proposed levels of compensation to a maximum of 600 euros, rather than the 1'500 euros originally suggested by the European Commission. The proposed law was passed in a first reading in the parliament but it could still face revision as it has yet to be approved by EU governments and get through a second reading in the assembly. “Given the earlier proposal, this is quite reasonable,” Sefik Yusel, an official at the Association of European Airlines (AEA) said. “We are quite happy that it goes into legislation so all airlines do the same.” But Dutch Liberal Euro MP Herman Vermeer said the threat from the new regulations to low-fare carriers threatened to stifle the competition which the new budget airlines had brought to the market and “could mean an end to cheap deals for consumers”. EU Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio welcomed the parliamentary vote and her spokesman said EU governments, who share lawmaking powers with parliament, might be able to finalise the law in December and there might be some room for manoeuvre. “We could be open to consider different amounts of compensation,” she said. De Palacio has said the measures, which would also ensure airlines give food and drink to passengers suffering delays, would put a “human face” on the airline sector.

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