Travellers Rights (Part 1)

Saturday, August 18, 2012
By Maria Teresa Velasco

Rights of the passenger in cases of delay, cancellation, overbooking and lost luggage (part 1):

Every time we buy a ticket from a transport company e.g.  plane, train, coach, etc  we implicitly enter  a contractual agreement with that  transport firm. The contract is generally named “conditions of carriage”, “terms and conditions” or other similar names. It can be found on the company website and sometime in small print at the back of the ticket or in one of the receipts after the purchase. When we buy a ticket online we implicitly sign the contract by ticking the box stating that we accept the conditions of the transport company.

The contract

According to this contract, the passenger has the responsibility of paying for the ticket and the transport company has the obligation to provide transport for him and his belongings in agreed conditions (mainly speed and comfort) without suffering any damage.

Therefore, problems like, cancellation, delay, lost or damaged luggage are breaches of contract on the part of the transport company. In these cases the company will have to compensate passengers as long as:

There is a contract, explicit or implied

There are damages or nuisances that can be proved

There is no ‘force majeure’ event like weather, natural catastrophe, war or a strike (transport companies account personnel strikes as force majeure even if the strike was planned longtime in advance).

According to the type of transport there are different rules and regulations, and individual companies will have different “service agreements” with passengers which means that it will be necessary to read the wording of the contract.

Train

There are about a dozen railways operators in Spain. Regulations state that in cases of delay, cancellation, interruption of the journey or damage to luggage, the operator is responsible. This of course doesn’t cover force majeure situations.

RENFE the national train operator states that in cases of delay passengers  will be refunded 50% of the ticket price for delays of more than one hour and 100% of the price if the delay was more than one and half hours. For AVE, the Spanish high-speed train, the compensation will be from 25% for a 20 minute delay to 100% of the ticket for delays of more than one hour. In cases of cancellation the refund will be up to twice the ticket price if the train was cancelled less than 4 hours before departure.

Maritime Transport

There are no set rules outside the transport agreement. In case of cancellation the ticket will be refunded. If the trip was part of a tour or a cruise the tour operator should compensate as well for damages.  Unlike air transport there is no set limit to company liability.

Road Transport

Spanish public transport is regulated by a set of strict rules that are outside the scope of this article. Claims for compensation for private road transport such as   coach companies for substandard service will be calculated according to the damage incurred by the passenger (as long as this can be proved ). Compensation for damaged or lost luggage will be limited to a maximum depending on the company and the situation.

For national travel this will be regulated by law 16/1987 of July 30th that states in article 23 that luggage damaged or lost will be compensated up to a maximum of 14.50€ per Kg. In cases where the luggage was not weighed it will be assumed to weigh 25kg.

For international travel, the coach line will set the maximum compensation in the transport agreement. In general this will be between 200€ and 400€.

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