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'Valid' air passenger complaints up 137 per cent

While overall level of complaints fell in 2011, the Commission for Aviation Regulation says number coming under its responsibility grew.

Image: Frank Augstein/AP/Press Association Images

PASSENGER COMPLAINTS to the Commission of Aviation Regulation fell by one-fifth last year amid continuing confusion over which body complaints should be addressed to, the commission says in its passenger rights complaint report for 2011.

However, the number of valid complaints received which were within the body’s responsibility grew by 137 per cent last year.

Of the 4,084 passenger complaints received last year, almost 3,000 related to baggage, pricing, safety and air carrier policy issues.

While these fall outside of the Commission’s remit (under EU legislation, the body is responsible for discharging Ireland’s responsibilities for flight schedule coordination and slot allocation at Irish airports), it says it passed the complaints on to the relevant authorities.

Just over half of the remaining 1,130 complaints concerned departures from an Irish airport, while just 2 per cent concerned arrival into an Irish airport from a non-EU airport.

Another 45 per cent concerned departure from an airport located in another EU member state, or arrival into another EU state from a third country on a community-licensed carrier.

The Commission says that it received 626 valid complaints in 2011 which fell under its responsibility. Of these, 362 concerned cancellations, 159 related to long delays and 23 regarded being denied boarding. By 1 July 2012, the Commission had concluded its investigations into 527 of the 626 cases, and was still working on the other 99.

Passengers received compensation in 61 cases and a refused in 193 others, while in a further 284 cases air carriers demonstrated either the application of an exemption under EU regulations or that the delay in question did not exceed three hours.

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The complaints received by the organisation last year represent a 20.5 per cent drop on 2010, and an increase of 64 per cent on 2009. Last year, complaints peaked around the period of the air travel disruptions caused by Icelandic volcanic ash in April and May.

Of the 2010 cases, the Commission “has concluded its investigations into 92 per cent of these that fell within its jurisdiction,” it says in its report.

“It is expected that the remaining 8 per cent will be finalised promptly upon receipt of final clarification of issues which have been put before the European Court of Justice.”

However, the commission says that “it appears that passengers are still unclear as to which public body is competent to address their various complaints”.

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