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Switzerland set to take on new EU air rights

The wait at the airport is also part of the journey

(Keystone)

Swiss authorities are to take over air passenger rights in force in the European Union, giving greater protection to travellers to and from Switzerland.

Regulations which came into force in EU member states in February give passengers more rights in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellation or long delays.

The director of the Federal Civil Aviation Office, Raymond Cron, announced the move in Brussels on Friday, after a meeting of the joint EU-Swiss air transport committee.

However, it will be some time before the necessary legal modifications can be introduced.

Cron said he believed the new passenger rights would come into force "some time next year".

Improvements

As soon as they are changed, passengers travelling to and from Switzerland can benefit from a range of improvements.

For example, if passengers are not able to board an aircraft because it is overbooked, airlines will have to pay compensation of between SFr200 ($151.7) and SFr900.

The precise amount depends on the length of the flight and waiting time.

Airlines must also compensate passengers in case of a late cancellation, and they also have to offer meals and a hotel if necessary.

These rights are already in force for flights from EU airports or with European airlines in the EU.

Security measures

Switzerland, which is closely integrated in European air transport with a bilateral agreement, is also going to take over a package of EU security measures and join the European Aviation Safety Agency.

"It would be unthinkable to stand offside. The agency will plot the course of future development in aviation safety," Cron commented.

The Swiss Senate has unanimously voted in favour of EASA membership, while the House of Representatives is to discuss the issue in December.
Cron believes that Switzerland will become an EASA member in the second half of next year.

He said that Bern also wanted to take on board the EU's list of unsafe airline companies. If an airline were banned in the EU for safety reasons, Switzerland would also ban it.

However, the exact rules for drawing up a black list have not yet been determined.

Blacklist

Switzerland, like other European countries, has published its own blacklist of airlines it considers unsafe.

Despite its close aviation ties with Europe, Switzerland remains independent when it comes to third countries.

For example, take-off and landing rights with the United States have to be worked out bilaterally, and Switzerland cannot benefit from the aviation liberalisation accord recently announced between the US and the EU.

swissinfo, Simon Thönen in Brussels

In brief

The EU regulations on air passenger rights came into force on February 17 this year.

They govern compensation in cases of overbooking, delays and flight cancellations.

For example, if passengers are not able to board an aircraft because it is overbooked, airlines will have to pay compensation of between SFr200 ($151.7) and SFr900.

Airlines must also compensate for late cancellations.

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