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Consumer protection and liability

Airfares

Are airfares regulated in your jurisdiction?

Airfares are generally not regulated in Ireland, with the exception of certain public service obligation routes. However, the Air Services Regulation sets out certain requirements relating to airfare transparency, which require airlines to make specific disclosures throughout the booking process.

Passenger protection

What rules and liabilities are air carriers subject to in respect of:

(a) Flight delays and cancellations?

EU Regulation 261/2004 (the Flight Compensation Regulation) establishes common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights and sets out the rules relating to the provision of assistance and compensation to passengers for denied boarding, cancellations and delays. The Flight Compensation Regulation applies to all passengers departing from EU or EEA airports, and those departing from outside the European Union or European Economic Area but arriving in an EU or EEA airport on an EU or EEA-licensed carrier (subject to assistance having been received in a third country). A number of European Court of Justice decisions are relevant in determining the application of the Flight Compensation Regulation to a particular scenario. In the case of flight delays extending beyond a certain time period, the passenger must be offered particular assistance (including food, accommodation and telephone calls) and the option of a refund, depending on the extent of the delay. In some circumstances, compensation may also be payable under the Flight Compensation Regulation. In the case of a flight cancellation, the passenger must be offered reimbursement of their ticket and rerouting. Fixed compensation may also be payable for a cancellation, as for a delayed flight, unless the airline can prove that it was the result of certain extraordinary circumstances.

(b) Oversold flights?

The Flight Compensation Regulation sets out the rules regarding oversold flights. It allows air carriers to deny boarding in the case of an oversold flight but sets out the compensation and services to be afforded to affected passengers. This includes reimbursement of the ticket cost and rerouting to the final destination at the earliest opportunity, or at the convenience of the affected passenger. The provision of accommodation, telephone calls and food is also provided for under the Flight Compensation Regulation in these circumstances. Financial compensation may also be payable (to those passengers who do not voluntarily accept the denied boarding) with compensation ranging from €125 to €600 depending on the distance of the relevant flight and the delay incurred.

(c) Denied boarding?

The Air Services Regulation applies in this instance. Passengers that are denied boarding must be given the option of a refund or rerouting at their convenience. A passenger will not be considered to have been denied boarding under the Flight Compensation Regulation if there are reasonable grounds to arouse safety concerns or certain other travel formalities are not complied with (eg, the presentation of required travel documents).

(d) Access for disabled passengers?

EU Regulation 1107/2006 (the Reduced Mobility Regulation) concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air applies to certain “persons of reduced mobility” departing from, arriving to or transiting through an EU airport on a commercial air service. The Reduced Mobility Regulation sets out the rights and responsibilities of air carriers and persons of reduced mobility. The Reduced Mobility Regulation requires that airports and airlines provide affected persons with certain levels of assistance free of charge. The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) is responsible for the enforcement of the Reduced Mobility Regulation in Ireland.

(e) Lost, damaged or destroyed luggage?

Ireland is a signatory to the Montreal Convention, which deals with passenger rights arising from lost, damaged or destroyed luggage.

(f) Retention and protection of passenger data?

The Data Protection Act 1988 and the Data Protection (Amendment) Act 2003 give effect to the EU Data Protection Directive (EU Directive 95/46/EC), along with the Data Protection Act 2018, which amended the above domestic law in light of the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (2016/679) (GDPR) on 25 May 2018 across the European Union. The key responsibilities of data controllers and data processors (including airlines) are set out in the GDPR (which is of direct effect in Ireland) and include:

  • fairly obtaining and fairly processing personal data;
  • keeping data only for specified and lawful purposes;
  • keeping data safe, secure, up to date and accurate;
  • ensuring that the data retained is adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  • keeping data no longer than necessary; and
  • giving an individual a copy of their personal data on request.

In the event of a data breach or data loss, the data controller is obliged to inform affected data subjects and report the breach to the data protection commissioner. The GDPR has significantly strengthened consumers’ data protection rights in Ireland and has increased financial penalties for non-compliance.

Statutory Instrument 336/2011 gives effect in Ireland to EU Directive 2002/58/EC (the ePrivacy Directive) and applies to the use of passenger data in marketing. In January 2017 the European Commission proposed a new ePrivacy Regulation to align the ePrivacy Directive with the GDPR.

Irish licensed air carriers are also subject to EU Directive 2016/681 on the use of passenger name record data, which has been implemented in Irish domestic law by way of the European Union (Passenger Name Record Data) Regulations 2018.

Cargo

What rules and liabilities apply to the air carriage of cargo?

Aircraft operators based in Ireland seeking to engage in the carriage by air of mail or cargo for remuneration must hold a valid air carrier operating licence and air operator certificate. The Montreal Convention, as enacted in Ireland, sets out the rules regarding liability in the event of any damage caused to such cargo, in cases where the flight operates between ratifying states. In other circumstances, the Warsaw Convention (as amended) may be applicable.

Marketing and advertising

Do any special rules apply to the marketing and advertising of aviation services?

The Air Services Regulation provides for non-discrimination and transparency in airline pricing. Irish airlines are free to set the price of their intra-European Union air services. However, the Air Services Regulation details the prices and surcharges that must be made clear to passengers and sets out certain prohibitions with regard to price discrimination and requirements as to disclosures during the booking process.

Complaints handling

Do any special rules apply to consumer complaints handling in the aviation industry?

In Ireland, the body charged with the enforcement of aviation consumer protection law is the CAR. It is the national enforcement body for the monitoring and regulation of the Flight Compensation Regulation covering air passenger rights and the provision of assistance to passengers with reduced mobility. The Air Services Regulation and the Flight Compensation Regulation are the key legislative sources of consumer protection for aviation matters in Ireland.

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