Commission finds transport disruption across Europe “unacceptable” and will act to ensure preparedness

Commission Vice President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport, expressed on 21 December Commission's concern about the level of disruption to travel across Europe caused by severe snow. The European Commission has described this situation as unacceptable and declared it should not happen again.

As Commissioner Kallas highlighted in a public statement, the European Commission is monitoring travel disruption situation very closely and is in constant touch with airlines, airports, rail operators and national authorities responsible for passenger rights. The recent problems relating to availability of infrastructures for airlines, both airports and ground handling, seems to be a "weak link" in a chain which, under pressure, is contributing to severe disruption.

Although the Commission understands that safety comes first in severe weather conditions such as those lived in Europe over the previous days, it understands that a compromise should be reached and contingency plans should be put in place by Member States.

The Commission intends to undergo a series of meetings with airports representatives to ask for further explanations and to take a hard look at what is necessary to make sure they would be able to operate more effectively in the similar situations in the future. Snow is Western Europe is not an exceptional circumstance, and should therefore be taken into account in operational planning.

Commissioner Kallas also recalled that, regarding 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 2010, that safety net of rights also covers rail passengers, and in the future will extend to ship, inland waterways, bus and coaches.

Preparedness should be addressed for travel infrastructures operation

Infrastructure providers such as airports and rail infrastructure managers should have the appropriate service levels and minimum quality requirements that are followed and delivered. In the Commission's view, better preparedness, in line with what is done in Northern Europe must be planned for and with the necessary investment, particularly on the side of the airports.

Should it be the case, the European Commission would provide any necessary support in terms of regulation on minimum service requirements for airports in this area. Commission could do so, for example, when bringing forward the Airports package on slots and groundhandling which is foreseen before summer next year.

Before doing so, conversations with airport operators would be maintained in order to look at the issue across the whole travel chain and make sure possible loopholes and weak links are identified and closed.