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Air Passenger Rights: European Union v. United States

Over the past decade, the European Union has become the world leader in air passenger rights, enacting a variety of laws to protect travelers. In stark contrast, the United States government actively avoided legislation like the proposed “Passenger Bill of Rights” and left it up to the airlines to provide for inconvenienced passengers.  As a result of stiff competition and a lack of regulation, U.S. air carriers decreased capacity and slashed basic services to maintain profitability.  Delays, cancellations and passenger overbooking increased in frequency, while consumer satisfaction plummeted.  This left millions of American passengers stranded in airports and on the tarmac with little to no recourse.  

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation reversed course and implemented strategic policies like the tarmac delay rule to protect consumers under the title “Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections”.  These changes seem to be having a marked influence upon carrier behavior and are helping to prevent “nightmare” scenarios for travelers.  It is clear that the DOT is just getting warmed-up.  On April 20th of 2011, the DOT issued a wide variety of new regulations on issues ranging from compensation for bumped passengers to proper disclosure of taxes and fees. 

Click here for an in-depth chart comparing air passenger protections in the United States and the European Union. This chart is meant to provide a quick and informative reference for practitioners, academics and, most importantly, travelers.