Monday, June 30, 2008

"Europe and US sign aviation agreement to improve safety and cut costs"

According to the EU Press Room, "As of today, aviation relations between the European Community and the United States will be further strengthened through an agreement on aviation safety. Thanks to the mutual recognition of aviation safety certificates, the agreement will result in better harmonised safety systems on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as less cumbersome technical and administrative procedures for the recognition of certificates. It is expected that this will entail further improvement in safety levels and reduce costs by several millions of euros every year for European and US manufacturers alike. These savings should in turn be reflected in fares for passengers."

This press release is available in full text.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

European Union: Court of First Instance partly annuls Commission's decision on aid paid to Olympiaki Aeroporia Ypiresies

Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the Commission adopted a Communication on their repercussions on the air transport industry. In that communication, the Commission considered that, having regard to the exceptional nature of the events of 11 September, the State aid provisions could authorise, under certain conditions, compensation for costs caused by the closure of American airspace for four days (from 11 to 14 September 2001) and for the extra cost of insurance.
In 2002, the Greek authorities sent the Commission the detailed calculations of the compensation in favour of Olympiaki Aeroporia Ypiresies. It related to revenue lost in respect of the carriage of passengers and goods, the costs of destruction of sensitive goods, the additional costs of security checks, the costs of recalling an Athens to New York flight on 11 September 2001 and of cancelling the return flight, the costs of the landing and stay at Halifax (from 11 to 15 September 2001) of a flight the original destination of which was Toronto, the costs of extra repatriation flights (‘ferry flights’) on 18, 20 and 26 September 2001 and, finally, the costs connected with the additional hours worked by staff and the costs of additional security. The amount of EUR 4 827 586.21 was paid to Olympiaki in July 2002.
In 2006, at the conclusion of a formal investigation procedure, the Commission decided that the State aid was compatible with the common market as regards the compensation paid for the period from 11 to 14 September 2000 up to a maximum amount of EUR 1 962 680. On the other hand, the Commission considered that the cancellation of the flights of 15 and 16 September 2001 and the ‘ferry flights’ were but indirect repercussions of the terrorist attacks. It also ordered the recovery of any amount of aid paid in excess of EUR 1 962 680.
On the other hand, the Commission considered that the cancellation of the flights of 15 and 16 September 2001 and the ‘ferry flights’ were but indirect repercussions of the terrorist attacks. It also ordered the recovery of any amount of aid paid in excess of EUR 1 962 680.
Olympiaki applied to the Court of First Instance for the annulment of the Commission’s decision in so far as it fixed the maximum amount of compensation compatible with the common market at EUR 1 962 680. It challenged the determination that no loss which arose after 14 September 2001 had a causal connection with the terrorist attacks of 11 September.
The Court of First Instance notes that the existence of a direct connection between the exceptional occurrence and the damage caused does not presuppose that they occurred at the same time.
The Court of First Instance annuls the Commission’s decision in so far as it concerns the compensation for the cancellation, on 15 September 2001, of the flight to Toronto, on the ground that the evidence on which the Community institution relied in order to substantiate the lack of a causal connection did not justify its determination. Further, the Court of First Instance annuls for failure to state reasons, the Commission’s decision in so far as it concerns the losses suffered by Olympiaki, first, on its network apart from the North Atlantic and Israel (about EUR 1 212 000) and, second, lost revenue amounting to about EUR 500 000 in respect of the carriage of goods and other costs incurred.

Source: European Court of First Instance press release>>.

European Court of Justice: Costs of disposing of waste from a sinking oil tanker from coastline and beaches to be imposed on producer

The Italian company ENEL concluded a contract with Total International Ltd for the supply of heavy fuel oil from Dunkirk (France) to Milazzo (Italy). To carry out the contract, Total raffinage distribution, now Total France SA, sold the heavy fuel oil to Total International Ltd, which chartered the oil tanker Erika, flying the Maltese flag. On 12 December 1999 the Erika sank off the coast of Brittany (Finistère, France), spilling part of her cargo and oil from her bunkers into the sea and causing pollution of the Atlantic coastline of France.
The municipality of Mesquer brought proceedings against the companies in the Total group for reimbursement of the cost of cleaning and anti-pollution operations on its coastal territory, relying on the Waste Directive. The municipality claimed that the hydrocarbons accidentally spilled at sea constituted waste within the meaning of the directive, so that the companies Total International Ltd and Total France should be liable for the cost of disposal, in their capacity as ‘previous holders’ or ‘producer of the product from which the waste came’ respectively.
The Court considers that the heavy fuel oil carried by the ship is not ‘waste’, as it is exploited or marketed on economically advantageous terms and is capable of actually being used as a fuel without requiring prior processing. However, such hydrocarbons spilled in connection with a shipwreck, mixed with water and sediment and drifting along the coastline of a Member State until being washed up on shore, must be regarded as substances which their holder did not intend to produce and which he discards, albeit involuntarily, while they are being transported, so that they must be classified as waste within the meaning of the directive.
The Court recalls that the Waste Directive provides, in accordance with the ‘polluter pays’ principle, that that cost must be borne by the ‘previous holders’ or the ‘producer of the product from which the waste came’. The shipowner may be regarded as having produced the waste and on that basis be classified as a ‘holder’ within the meaning of the directive. However, the national court may consider that the seller of hydrocarbons and charterer of the ship carrying them has ‘produced’ waste if it finds that the seller-charterer contributed to the risk that the pollution caused by the shipwreck would occur. If, however,the national law of a Member State, including the law derived from international agreements, prevents that cost from being borne by the shipowner and the charterer, even though they are to be regarded as ‘holders’, such a national law will then have to make provision for that cost to be borne by the ‘producer of the product from which the waste came’, if he has contributed by his conduct to the risk that the pollution caused by the shipwreck will occur.

Source: ECJ press realease>>.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

USA: cruise safety bill rejected

A California state Assembly committee Tuesday rejected a bill strongly opposed by cruise companies that would have placed peace officers on passenger ships sailing from California ports.The bill already had been approved by the state Senate but failed to move past the Assembly's Public Safety Committee on concerns that it would create a jurisdictional and legal mess.
It would have been the most stringent regulation in an industry that victim-rights advocates contend is governed by a vague web of federal and international rules that allows crime and crime reporting to fall through the cracks.

Source: LA Times; find article here>>.

Friday, June 20, 2008

USA: Lawmakers discuss crimes on cruise ships

As reported by Los Angeles Times the Assembly Judiciary Committee in California voted 7 to 1 on Tuesday in favor of a bill to place peace officers aboard cruise ships, bringing the legislation closer to a full vote in the chamber; it has already passed the state Senate.

Meanwhile, in Washington, a U.S. Senate subcommittee will hold its first hearing on the issue Thursday, a possible precursor to federal legislation to tighten crime reporting requirements.
Currently, cruise ships are not required to have law enforcement on board and there is only a voluntary agreement in place to report the most serious crimes, such as homicide and rape, to the FBI.

Read article here>>.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

USA: rental car companies charge disproportionate gas prices at airports

A USA TODAY survey of eight car rental companies found prices of $7.99, or $8, a gallon at 10 airports surveyed. The prices were levied upon renters who return a car without a full tank of gas or don't prepay for a full tank at the car rental company's set price. The biggest rental car companies charge the most when customers don't refuel a vehicle or agree to the prepay option.

These high charges became controversial in Maryland last week when the state's attorney general, Douglas Gansler, announced that rental car companies operating in the state had agreed to lower their gas prices after the state threatened to fine or sue them.

Source: USA TODAY; find full article and survey chart here>>.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

UNTWO: Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli to Step Down at Beginning of 2009

Addressing the Executive Council of the UNWTO, Francesco Frangialli announced that he would be stepping down at the beginning of 2009 to allow for a smooth transition before the normal end of his final term of office. He reflected on the main structural achievements during this period:
  • The creation of a universally accepted system of Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSA) to accurately measure the impact of tourism in national economies.
  • The adoption of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism which had been recognized by the UN General Assembly as the basis for responsible tourism.
  • The placing of tourism as a key element in the international agenda for sustainable development and the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Source: UNWTO press release>>.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Iceland: Europe’s largest national park established

Iceland’s Vatnajokull National Park is Europe’s largest national park, Icelandic Enviroment Minister Thorunn Sveinbjarnardottir proclaimed last Saturday. Vatnajokull National Park includes Europe’s largest glacier in its entirety, some land bordering it as well as land previously belonging to two discontinued national parks. The initial size of the national park is 12,000 square kilometers, which authorities hope to increase to 15,000 square kilometers within the next couple of years.
Critics of the park’s funding say that the government has not made enough money available for this important but giant project. Further, they say the money is incorrectly spent. Instead of improving access to the national park or paying salaries, most of the money is allocated to the construction of four new visitor’s centers.

Source: eTurboNews; read full article here>>.

USA: ACTE and EFF seek reversal of laptop seizure decision

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have filed an amicus brief with the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to rehear and reverse a flawed decision allowing random and invasive searches of travellers’ computers (and other electronic devices) at U.S. borders. A previous ruling by the U.S. Supreme court gives U.S. Customs & Border Protection Service officials blanket authority to inspect all electronic devices, examine the contents, copy them, or seize the unit as they see fit. Suspicion of a crime need not be a factor in the decision.
The amicus brief jointly filed with the Electronic Frontier Foundation is the second such effort for the two organizations. On 19 June 2007, a previous brief was filed on behalf of all travellers who would be subject to these searches and seizures crossing U.S. borders. This second amicus brief may get a better reception as Congress has taken an intererst in the issue. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution regarding “Laptop Searches and Other Violations of Privacy Faced by Americans Returning from Overseas Travel” for Wednesday, 25 June 2008.

Source: ACTE press release>>.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

USA: Rhode Island repealed agency licensing and bonding law

Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri signed a bill on Friday repealing the state’s 32-year-old travel agency licensing and bonding law. It had been the first state law in the U.S. to require either agency licensing or bonding. The law was repealed to save money at the state level and because there are now so few agents to regulate in the smallest U.S. state.

Source: Travel Weekly; full article here>>.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"State aid: Commission launches in-depth investigation into €300 million loan granted to Alitalia by the Italian State"

According to the E.U. Press Room, "The European Commission has decided to launch an in-depth investigation to ascertain whether the loan granted to Alitalia by the Italian State is compatible with the Community rules on state aid. At this stage, the Commission believes that the loan - which the Italian company has the option of incorporating into its equity capital- could constitute aid that is incompatible with the common market. The investigation will give all the interested parties the opportunity to submit their comments."

This Press Release is available in full text.

UK: Federation of Tour Operators calls for financial protection for all air travellers

Many Silverjet customers face applying as unsecured creditors to the airline’s adminstrator, while others who booked flights as part of a package will be protected.
Following a long drawn out review, in April this year the £1 per passenger Air Travel Organisors' Licensing Protection Contribution arrangements began as a financial contribution used to pay for repatriation costs and refunds from the Air Travel Trust Fund for customers of any failed tour operator.
The FTO argued strongly that the opportunity should be seized to widen the scheme to include customers of airlines, but regrettably this was rejected by the Government following strong lobbying by some airlines. Events before and since have shown that airline customers badly need comparable protection to customers of tour operators, and in turn tour operators deserve a level playing field to compete fairly with airlines, given the increasingly blurred and irrelevant line between a ‘package’ and separate air and hotel bookings.

Source: FTO; find full statement here>>.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Italy: significant decrease in night train travelers

As reservations for sleeping cars went down more than 45 percent from 2001 to 2007, Italian railway company "Trenitalia" announced to cease overnight railway services on the lines from Rome and Venice to Nice. However, consumer associations claim the enormous decrease at some extent was caused by bad quality of service: sleeping cars were often uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous. The railway company by contrast blames low cost carriers for the trend.

Source: "Il Giornale"

Thursday, June 05, 2008

DHS Announces Pre-Travel Authorization for U.S.-Bound Travelers -Visa Waiver

Washington – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced today the Interim Final Rule for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a new online system that is part of the Visa Waiver Program and is required by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
“Rather than relying on paper-based procedures, this system will leverage 21st century electronic means to obtain basic information about who is traveling to the U.S. without a visa,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “Getting this information in advance enables our frontline personnel to determine whether a visa-free traveler presents a threat, before boarding an aircraft or arriving on our shores. It is a relatively simple and effective way to strengthen our security, and that of international travelers, while helping to preserve an important program for key allies.”
Once ESTA is mandatory, all nationals or citizens of visa waiver countries who plan to travel to the United States for temporary business or pleasure under the VWP will need to receive an electronic travel authorization prior to boarding a U.S.-bound airplane or cruise ship. The requirement will go into effect next year and does not affect U.S. citizens traveling overseas.

Source: DHS Newsroom; full text

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

UK: Office of Fair Trading warns holidaymakers of bogus holiday clubs

The OFT is warning holidaymakers flying out to Spain about the dangers of bogus holiday club scams which cost UK consumers millions of pounds a year. Research has shown that this is a peak time for consumers being targeted by bogus holiday clubs, with the average victim losing over £3000. Every year thousands of UK consumers fall for this type of scam at resorts such as Benalmadena, Fuengirola and Marbella on the Costa del Sol, and in the Canary Islands. Consumers are typically targeted by 'scratchcard touts' who hand out bogus winning cards to holidaymakers. To collect their prize they are forced to attend a lengthy presentation and persuaded into signing a contract for an 'exclusive' club on the basis of false claims as to the price, range and quality of holidays available. After spending thousands of pounds, consumers often find they have bought little more than access to an internet booking service offering the same service they could get at a high street travel agent.

Source: OFT press release; full text here>>.

"China Lists Dos and Don’ts for Olympics-Bound Foreigners"

As reported by Keith Bradsher, at The New York Times, "Do not bring any printed materials critical of China. Do not plan on holding any rallies or demonstrations in China. Do not think that you are guaranteed an entry visa because you hold tickets to an Olympic event. And do not even think about smuggling opium into China.
That is some of the eclectic advice issued by the Beijing Organizing Committee on Monday, in a document listing 57 questions that foreign visitors to the Olympic Games in August may have: 'Does China have any regulation against insults to the flag or national emblems?' 'After eating or drinking at restaurants or hotels, if you have diarrhea or vomiting symptoms, how do you lodge a complaint?'
The advisory to foreigners, posted on the committee’s Web site, but only in Chinese, provides answers for each question in a deadpan style. (Burning or soiling the Chinese flag or emblems is a criminal offense; food poisoning symptoms are to be reported to the local health department.) Some of the rules, like a ban on religious or political banners or slogans at Olympic sites, appear aimed at preventing protests of China’s crackdown in Tibet this year and other Chinese policies." Read more>>

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

European Court of Justice: Directive on ship-source pollution providing for penalties in the event fof accidental discharges remains valid

Organisations representing substantial proportions of the maritime shipping sector brought an action before the High Court of Justice of England and Wales regarding the implementation in the United Kingdom of the directive on ship-source pollution and the introduction of penalties for infringements. They argued that by establishing a stricter liability regime for accidental discharges two provisions of the directive did not comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (the Marpol Convention).
The national court requested the Court of Justice to rule on whether the provisions of the directive are compatible with the two international treaties (Case C-308/06 - Intertanko).
The Court noted that the Community institutions are bound by international agreements concluded by the Community and that international treaties therefore have primacy over secondary Community legislation. Consequently, the validity of, inter alia, a directive may be affected by a failure to comply with international rules.
With regard to the Marpol Convention, the Court observed that the Community is not a party to this Convention. The mere fact that the directive incorporates certain rules set out in it is not sufficient to enable the Court to review the directive’s legality in the light of the Convention.
With regard to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Court observed that this Convention has been signed by the Community and approved by a Community decision, thereby binding the Community. However, the Convention does not establish rules intended to apply directly and immediately to individuals. It does not confer upon them rights and freedoms capable of being relied upon against States, irrespective of the attitude of the ship’s flag State. Consequently, the nature and broad logic of the Convention on the Law of the Sea prevent the Court from being able to assess the validity of a Community measure in the light of that Convention.

Source: ECJ press release 35/08 of 3. June 2008.

Germans equalise with penalty gibe in a shootout over sun loungers and clichés.

The TimesOnline from today, in a citation from Bild, Germany’s mass circulation newspaper, relate in an ominous sign that Britain and Germany are cranking up for another summer of poolside conflict. The journalist Roger Boyes, from Berlin who wrote the article, got a picture between Britain and Germany in travel relation. In spite of the sensitive issue the article brings relevant information about the rules and also cite the opinion from an expert in German holiday law Uta Stenzel who said: Even if the travel company announces in the brochure that the resort is ‘favoured by Germans' the tourist has to accept the possibility that he will spend his holidays with up to 90 per cent foreigners – above all with the English.”

Find full article here "TimesOnline"