When I was nominated Rapporteur for the Air Passenger Rights Regulation, in other words made responsible for the negotiations, I knew it wouldn't be easy to improve consumer rights against the huge lobbies of airlines. It is a real David and Goliath story.
Passengers’ complaints against airlines must be taken more seriously
In order to find out what customers were most concerned about and where improvements were most needed, I decided to take an unconventional but simple approach: I sent an email to everyone who works in the European Parliament - as they travel all the time - asking them to fill out a short questionnaire in order to get a better understanding of passengers' experiences.
I was blown away by the response. I received over 250 replies with pages of real life stories: holiday trips with the children, business trips or a simple weekend abroad. Everyone had a story to tell which underlined how helpless they felt when something went wrong.
Better air passenger rights are of interest to just about every citizen of the European Union. Today, merely 2% of passengers actually get compensation after filing a complaint against an airline. And frankly, it reminded me of why I wanted to work in politics.
Vote in plenary defends the passenger rights of all of us
It has been 11 months since I sent out the questionnaire and during this time I have met with over 50 stakeholders. If I look at the compromise text we voted in plenary, I am very satisfied. OK, it's not perfect but then again, it's a compromise text with 766 Members representing 500 million citizens.
However, I can truly say that if this text had applied when all those people who responded to my questionnaire travelled, every single one of them would have received an answer to their submitted complaint and nearly everyone would have been eligible for compensation.
Making travel easier and with more certainty will allow us to travel more with the flexibility and trust that we will reach our destination on time.
So, better air passenger rights actually do change the way we travel!