EU crackdown on airline websites yields results
New EU results published today show a "step change" in airline ticket selling websites across Europe in terms of compliance with consumer protection rules.
The findings feature in a final report on an 18 month EU-wide process to crackdown on misleading advertising and unfair practices. As a result of an EU enforcement investigation started in September 2007 - with 15 EU national authorities and Norway - 115 airline websites out of the 137 websites investigated have been corrected.
Following an additional "health check" process involving independent mystery shopping in March 2009 on 67 major airlines, 52 airlines have either been given a "clean bill of health" and undertaken to maintain the same standards or immediately responded to the Commission's consultation with undertakings to remedy outstanding issues.
The health check process checked websites against a comprehensive 14 point checklist, which was previously agreed with the airline industry. The Commission is now working to put in place an industry wide agreement to provide a level playing field for airlines across the EU and to maintain sites to a high standard.
EU Consumer Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva commented, "This Europe-wide airline investigation is changing the face of airline websites across the EU. There is no room for complacency; there is more work to be done. But this first pan European enforcement investigation has shown it has real "teeth "and can deliver. The next step is an industry wide agreement, and we will continue to monitor developments in the sector closely."
Vice President Antonio Tajani, in charge of Transport said, "Applying full price transparency is an obligation under the air services regulation.
"It is a duty for airlines to impose high standards across the industry; it is our responsibility to ensure that all players respect the same rules. This is of first and foremost importance for the consumer who wants to compare prices across airlines and make a real choice."
Airlines meeting all the standards of the health check and giving a commitment to maintain their webpages at this level are:
Air Malta, Blue1, bmi, bmibaby, Estonian Air, Finnair, Iberia, Malmö Aviation, SAS, Sata Air Açores, Sata International, Spanair, TAP, Tarom, TUIfly, Virgin Atlantic.
Airlines providing commitments that issues raised by the health check have already been addressed or will be addressed shortly to ensure that all standards are fully met are:
Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Aer Arann, Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, Air Europa, Air One, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Binter Canarias, Blue Air, Brussels Airlines, Bulgaria Air, Carpatair, Cimber Sterling, Condor, Cyprus Airways, Cyprus Turkish Airlines, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, EasyJet, Finncomm Airlines, Flybe, LOT, Lufthansa, Luxair, Malév Hungarian Airlines, Meridiana Air, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Pegasus Airlines, Ryanair, Skyways, Swiss, transavia.com, VLM Airlines, Wizz Air.
Aer Arann, featured in the latter group, has put out a statement quoting correspondence it received from Tamás Molnár, a Head of Unit in the DG SANCO in the European Commission saying, “Commissioner Kuneva would like to praise the practice of your company publicly and set it as an example for others to follow.”
The Irish carrier says it welcomes the report, but questions its inclusion on what some parts of the media is calling a ‘Grey List’, as Aer Arann has no issues to address with its website and this has been confirmed in communication between the airline and the European Commission.
Aer Arann was asked two questions by the European Commission during its investigation; the first related to whether flights with an intermediate stop were shown as such, and the second was whether the EU regulation on carrier liability was published on the site in unmodified form. Aer Arann’s confirms its response and transparency on these issues was accepted by the European Commission.