Thursday, 30 December 2010

Airline Liability-Snow Nonsense.

For the second time this year, airlines are facing having to compensate passengers whose flights have been delayed or cancelled due to natural factors entirely outwith their control. Under normal concepts of justice a party can only be responsible for an act or omission by itself or a contractor. That is fair.

Some time ago the EU enacted laws under which an airline which failed to deliver the contracted transportation either reasonably to schedule or not at all has been liable to pay compensation.Its purpose was to avoid airlines cancelling flights for their own convenience or to avoid losses on lightly booked services. Again,fair enough. Since then though governments have found that by decreeing that this extends to flights disrupted by volcanic dust, snow or other unavoidable natural causes they themselves slip neatly off the hook even if their own decisions grounded flights. This is particularly useful,- and immoral,- when the act or mmision is actually one of their own. The panic measures taken during the volcanic dust episode,which happened during days of visibly clear blue skies over the UK,-were absurd and costly backside covering. This activity appears to be normal in the civil service where accountability for anything is rarely accepted.Bonuses flow regardless.

The whole principle needs urgent review but is unlikely to get it. Just as there is little incentive for EU and state politicians to tackle the whole question of their own pay and allowances, there is none for them to probe anything which would move responsibility away from the airlines to themselves. They can not even face people up to the fact that its is up to themselves as users to take out appropriate insurance. Unfortunately the idea that anyone should have personal responsibility for anything they do does not sit well with the European view that someone (else) is always liable. Even "Act of God" does not wash although to be fair it is unlikely that any Almighty gets involved in the minutiae of daily volcanic or meteoroligical activity.

Unfortunately for the airlines,the producers of mass, safe, low cost travel and huge economic benefits to business and tourism, they are too often portrayed as carbon emitting, environment destroying hooligans by the green lobby and as wonderful cash cows there for the milking by governments. On bad days, their customers join in the chorus ,screaming for more regulation or just plain cash handouts for the misdeeds of volcanos, snow or any other thing. Airlines are seen as ineligible for the normal sense of natural justice or fair play. They are vilified and the baying mob of EU governments and upset passengers says someone else,- i.e.they,- must pay. Despite all their efforts and all they do ,they have no sympathy when the chips of "who pays?" are down. Outside the EU there is more understanding of the realities and airlines fly in less hostile skies.Some are even appreciated for their contribution to national economies.