Tuesday, June 29, 2010

IATA criticizes European Union’s response to Volcano crisis

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) criticized the European Union’s response to the eruption of the Iceland volcano in April, saying that it cost the European economy 5 billion euros. Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO during a meeting of EU Transport Ministers also said Europe must review its compensation regulations for flight cancellations and delays which were applied in a way never intended by the original legislation. Finally, Bisignani reiterated his call for a real European Single European Sky (SES).

Source: IATA press release 31 of June 25, 2010

USA and Europe sign new Open Skies Agreement

The U.S. and Europe have signed an agreement expanding the 2007 U.S.-EU Open-Skies Accord. The new agreement also affirms that the terms of the 2007 accord will remain in place indefinitely. It deepens U.S.-EU cooperation in aviation security, safety, competition and ease of travel, and provides greater protections for U.S. carriers from local restrictions on night flights at European airports. It also includes a ground-breaking article on the importance of high labor standards in the airline industry. The new agreement also underscores the importance of close transatlantic cooperation on aviation environmental matters in order to advance a global approach to global challenges.

Source: DOT press release of June 24, 2010

USA: airline food unsafe?

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports found that many meals served to passengers on major airlines are prepared in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. The FDA reports say many facilities store food at improper temperatures, use unclean equipment and employ workers who practice poor hygiene. At some, there were cockroaches, flies, mice and other signs of inadequate pest control.

Source: USA today; find article here>>.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Austria: bonus miles earned through business trips are subject to income tax

In a recently published judgement, Austrian Admnistrative Court (VwGH) decided that bonus miles of a frequent flyer programme earned by an employee on business trips are a taxable benefit arising from the employer-employee relationship, if used for the employee's private purposes: even if only individual persons are eligable to participate in frequent flyer programmes while companies are excluded, miles earned on business trips are occasioned in the context of the employer-employee relationship and therefore constitute income from employment if used privately.

However, these benefits do neither constitute any wage tax liabilities of the employer nor any obligation of the employer to monitor the use of bonus miles.

Income tax therefore must be paid by the employee himself as soon as the bonus miles are redeemed for goods or services. The mere credit of miles doesn't create any tax obligation.

Judgment 2007/15/0293 of April 29, 2010 available in German here>>.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

USA and Switzerland sign enhanced Open Skies Transport Agreement

Officials of the United States and Switzerland have signed an enhanced Open Skies Air Transport Agreement, replacing the previous agreement signed in 1995. The new agreement entered into force upon signature. The new agreement includes all of the essential elements of Open Skies and adds the right for airlines of both countries to operate all-cargo flights to third countries without a connection to the home country (“7th freedom rights”). In addition, the new agreement permits Swiss airlines to be owned and controlled by nationals of any member state of the European Union and extends to Swiss airlines the opportunity to compete under the “Fly America Act” for certain U.S. government civilian agency-funded passenger and cargo traffic between the United States and Switzerland and between non-U.S. points.

Source: travelpulse; find article here>>.

Monday, June 21, 2010

USA: DOT extends ADA protections to maritime passengers

As the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act approaches -- July 26 -- the Department of Transportation announced the first federal rule to specifically provide ADA protections to people with disabilities who travel on boats and ships. The rule covers vessels, like public ferry systems, operated by public entities. It also covers vessels, like cruise ships, operated by private entities primarily for transporting people.

First and foremost, its purpose is to make sure that boat and ship operators don't deny access to passengers based on their disability and that those passengers, once aboard, are treated fairly.

According to the new rule, passengers with disabilities cannot be charged extra for accessibility-related services and are not required to furnish their own attendants. It requires boat and ship operators to inform passengers of vessel accessibility and services, and it requires operators to have a knowledgeable person available to help passengers with disabilities resolve their concerns.

The new rule will become effective 120 days after it is published. There will be a 90-day comment period concerning three issues: whether vessel operators should be required to allow passengers with disabilities to bring emotional support animals on board, requirements operators must follow concerning the use of mobility aids, and the relationship of DOT and DOJ disability rules. The rule is available at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2007-26829.

Source: DOT announcement of June 17, 2010. Full text available here>>.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

European Court of Justice: no obligation to reimburse patient for costs of unscheduled hospital care during a temporary stay in another Member State

Following a complaint from a person insured under the Spanish national health system who had had to be admitted to hospital unexpectedly during a stay in France and who, on his return to Spain, was refused reimbursement of the portion of the hospital costs which, in accordance with French legislation, he had been left to pay, the Commission decided to bring action against Spain for failure to fulfil obligations. The Commission maintains that the Spanish legislation is in breach of the principle of freedom to provide services, since it refuses persons insured under the national health system reimbursement for that portion of the costs of care which is not covered by the institution of the Member State of stay. In that way, the effect of the legislation in question is to restrict not only the provision of hospital care, but also the provision of tourist or educational services, the obtaining of which can be the reason for a temporary stay in another Member State.

In its judgment in Case C-211/08 - Commission v Spain, delivered June 15, 2010, the Court of Justice held that the freedom to provide services encompasses the freedom of an insured person established in a Member State to travel – as a tourist or student, for example – to another Member State for a temporary stay and to receive hospital care there from a provider established in that Member State, where the need for such care during that stay arises because of his state of health. Nevertheless, the Court considers that, viewed globally, the Spanish legislation cannot be regarded as restricting the freedom to provide hospital care services, tourist services or educational services.

The fact of imposing on a Member State the obligation to guarantee to persons insured under the national system that the competent institution will provide complementary reimbursement whenever the level of cover applicable in the Member State of stay in respect of the unscheduled hospital treatment in question proves to be lower that that applicable under its own legislation would ultimately undermine the very fabric of the system which Regulation No 1408/71 sought to establish. In every such case, the competent institution of the Member State of affiliation would be systematically exposed to the highest financial burden, whether through the application of the legislation of a Member State of stay under which the level of cover is higher than that provided for under its own or through the application of its own legislation in the contrary situation.

The Court therefore dismissed the action brought by the Commission.

Source: ECJ press release No 56/10 of June 15, 2010

Full text of judgement available here>>.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Brazil: ANAC extends the rights of air passengers.

The ANAC – National Civil Aviation Agency, tied to the Ministry of Defence, has enacted the Resolution 141 which enters into force on June 13th. It broadens the rights of passenger flights delayed, cancelled or in case of breach (preventing the need for boarding aircraft or exchange overbooking). The main innovations are reducing the period within which the company must assist the passenger, the expansion of the right to information and immediate rearrangement in cases of cancelled flights, disrupted, and passengers unsuccessful boarding flights with confirmed reservations.

The air companies are prohibits to sale tickets for the next company's flights to the same destination until all passengers affected by delay cancellation or breach is rearrange themselves.
Breaking the rules infraction ANAC general conditions of carriage and may result in fines ranging from BR$ 4000 to BR$ 10,000 per occurrence.

Resolution No. 141 partially replaces Ordinance No. 676-5/2000, as regards the rights and guarantees of when the passenger transport contract signed with the airline is reneging on grounds of delay, flight cancellation or breach of passengers. The full text of the new resolution is available (in portuguese) on the ANAC on the Internet: http://www.anac.gov.br/biblioteca/resolucao/2010/RA2010-0141.pdf

Source in portuguese: http://www.anac.gov.br/imprensa/direitoPassageiro.asp

Monday, June 14, 2010

USA: Senate approves cruise safety bill

The Senate voted unanimously Thursday to require the cruise industry to be more transparent in reporting cruise ship crime and comply with new cabin security and surveillance measures. The House must approve some legislative changes the Senate made to the bill, before it goes to the president for his signature.

Source: Travel Weekly; find article here>>.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

US Supreme Court: amendment of complaint admissible in case of identifiable mistake in choosing defendant

Wanda Krupski of Michigan tripped over a camera cable and broke her leg while on a cruise ship. Her passenger ticket, which was issued by Costa CruiseLines,
  • identified respondent Costa Crociere S. p. A. as the carrier;
  • required an injured party to submit to the carrier or its agent written notice of a claim;
  • required any lawsuit to be filed within one year of the injury; and
  • designated a specific Federal District Court as the ex-clusive forum for lawsuits such as Krupski’s.
The front of the ticket listed Costa Cruise’s Florida address and made references to “Costa Cruises.”

After Krupski’s attorney notified Costa Cruise of her claims but did not reach a settlement, Krupski filed a diversity negligence action against Costa Cruise. Over the next several months — after the limitations period had expired — Costa Cruise brought CostaCrociere’s existence to Krupski’s attention three times, including in its motion for summary judgment, in which it stated that Costa Crociere was the proper defendant. Krupski responded and moved to amend her complaint to add Costa Crociere as a defendant.

The District Court denied Costa Cruise’s summary judgment motion without prejudice and granted Krupski leave to amend. After she served Costa Crociere with an amended complaint, the court dismissed Costa Cruise from the case. Thereafter, Costa Crociere — represented by the same counsel as Costa Cruise — moved to dismiss, contending that the amended complaint did not satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c), which governs when an amended pleading “relates back” to the date of a timely filed original pleading and is thus timely even though it was filed outside an applicable limitations period. The Rule requires, inter alia, that within the Rule 4(m) 120-day period for service after a complaint is filed, the newly named defendant “knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party’s identity.” Rule 15(c)(1)(C)(ii). The District Court found this condition fatal to Krupski’s attempt to relate back. It concluded that she had not made a mistake about the proper party’s identity because, although Costa Cruise had disclosed Costa Crociere’s role in several court filings, she nonetheless delayed for months filing an amended complaint. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding that Krupski either knew or should have known of Costa Crociere’s identity as a potential party because she furnished the ticket identifying it to her counsel well before the limitations period ended. It was therefore appropriate to treat her as having chosen to sue one potential party over another. Additionally, the court held that relation back was not appropriate because of Krupski’s undue delay in seeking to amend the complaint.

U.S. Supreme Court held that the question under Rule 15(c)(1)(C)(ii) was not whether Krupski knew or should have known Costa Crociere’s identity as the proper defendant, but whether Costa Crociere knew or should have known during the Rule 4(m) period that it would have been named as the defendant but for an error. Nothing in Krupski’s conduct during the Rule 4(m) period suggested that she failed to name Costa Crociere because of anything other than a mistake. In addition, Costa Crociere’s own actions contributed to passenger confusion over “the proper party”.

Supreme Court in opinion of June 7, 2010 therefore unanimously decided to reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Full Supreme Court opinion in case Wanda Krupski v. Costa Crociere SpA available here>>.

Australia: advertising campaign to accompany tough new laws on sex tourism

The Australian government has promised to fight the sexual exploitation of children wherever it occurs. Adverts have been placed in national newspapers that warn offenders they can be prosecuted in Australia even if their crimes are committed elsewhere. The measures include jail terms of up to 25 years for Australians found guilty of sex crimes against children in foreign countries.

Source: bbc.co.uk; find article here>>.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

European Court of Justice: Directive on unfair terms in consumer contracts allows stricter consumer protection rules by member states

The Tribunal Supremo (Spanish Supreme Court) asked the Court of Justice, in essence, whether the Directive on unfair terms in consumer contracts precludes a Member State from providing in its legal system, for the benefit of consumers, for an assessment as to the unfairness of contractual terms which relate to the definition of the main subject-matter of the contract or to the adequacy of the price and remuneration, on the one hand, as against the services or goods to be supplied in exchange, on the other hand, even in the case where those terms are drafted in plain, intelligible language.

In judgement of June 3, 2010 in Case C-484/08 (Caja de Ahorros v. Ausbanc), ECJ held that the Directive carried out only a partial and minimum harmonisation of national legislation concerning unfair terms, while recognising that Member States have the option of affording consumers a higher level of protection than that for which the Directive provides. Member States therefore may retain or adopt, throughout the area covered by the Directive, rules which are stricter than those provided for by the Directive. Consequently, the Directive does not preclude national legislation which authorises judicial review as to the unfairness of contractual terms which relate to the definition of the main subject-matter of the contract or to the adequacy of the price and remuneration, on the one hand, as against the services or goods to be supplied in exchange, on the other hand, even in the case where those terms are drafted in plain, intelligible language.

Source: ECJ press release No 52/10 of June 3, 2010

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Saudi Arabia: International Conference for Urban Heritage in the Islamic Countries

The first International Conference for Urban Heritage in the Islamic Countries, which was held in Riyadh during the period from May 23-28, 2010, has concluded its events with a number of recommendations, which were focused on the importance of preservation of the urban heritage of the Islamic countries and to develop it economically and culturally.

Source: Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities; find full text of report here>>.

USA: DOT Proposes Additional Consumer Protections for Air Travelers

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today proposed new consumer protections for air travelers, building on the Department of Transportation’s recent rule banning carriers from subjecting passengers to long tarmac delays and other deceptive practices.

Specifically, the new proposed rule would:

  • increase compensation for passengers involuntarily bumped from flights
  • allow passengers to make and cancel reservations within 24 hours without penalty
  • require full and prominently displayed disclosure of baggage fees as well as refunds and expense reimbursement when bags are not delivered on time
  • require fair price advertising
  • prohibit price increases after a ticket is purchased
  • mandate timely notice of flight status changes
Comments on the proposal are due in 60 days. The text of the proposed rule and comments are available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2010-0140.

Source: DOT press release of June 2, 2010; find full text here>>.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

UK: law suit over flight bans caused by volcanic ash?

EasyJet reportedly is planning to bring a class action lawsuit to win compensation for flight bans imposed by Europe’s air safety authorities. Most of Europe’s airspace was closed for nearly a week from April 15 after a huge ash cloud from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull stranded millions of passengers and paralysed freight and businesses.

Source: Times online; find article here>>.

USA: DOT fines AirTran and Delta for price advertising rule violations

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) assessed civil penalties against AirTran Airways and Delta Air Lines for violating rules that require airline price advertisements to disclose the full price consumers must pay for air transportation. The action against AirTran resulted from it advertising a fare that was not available, the action against Delta involved the carrier’s failure to provide adequate notice of taxes and fees that were not included in certain base fares at the first point they were advertised on its website. AirTran was fined $20,000 and Delta $40,000.

Source: travelpulse; find article here>>.