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Travel

EU court rules on passenger rights

A European Union court has improved travelers' rights with new rulings on air and rail travel. Passengers must be given train connection information and compensated for lost luggage.

The decisions delivered Thursday by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg say rail passengers must be provided with real-time travel information.

The ruling is based on a dispute in Austria involving WESTbahn Management. WESTbahn was refused access to real-time information on train arrivals and departures from competing rail companies, which it says it wanted to provide to passengers for delays, cancellations and connections.

Such information, which is available on screens in different train stations, cannot be considered confidential or sensitive, said the Court of Justice, the highest court in the European Union. 

It added that to ensure a fair market, all rail companies should be able to offer passengers a comparable service quality.

"Therefore rail companies are obligated to give the real-time information about the most important connections," the court said.

Liability for luggage

The court also ruled that airline carriers are responsible for every piece of a passenger's checked luggage.

The case stems from an August 2008 Iberian Airlines flight from Barcelona to Paris, where a family of four lost two suitcases that were never recovered. The family asked for 4,400 euros ($5,673) in compensation.

A Spanish court had asked if the airline only owed compensation to the traveler under whose name the luggage was registered. But the court ruled that not only the passenger who lost the luggage was able to claim compensation, but also other passengers whose belongings were in the bag.

"It is the responsibility of the affected traveler to prove … that the checked luggage actually contains items from another traveler who has taken the same flight," the court said.

The court added that family and joint-ticket purchases were taken into consideration.

Flight cancellation claims

In a separate verdict, the court made a decision regarding passengers making claims for cancelled flights.

The case involved a man whose KLM flight from Shanghai to Barcelona was cancelled. He waited three years to seek compensation, but the Dutch airline said he  had only two years to do so.

The court said that such cases must be decided by national law, because there was no EU law in place.

"The European regulations contain no provision over the period in which suits for compensatory claims can be made," said the court.