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Consumer protection and liability

Airfares

Are airfares regulated in your jurisdiction?

Air carriers are free to establish their own fares for commercial flights. The taxes and air charges included in the price are not fixed by the airline. In France, loss making sales are not permitted, so the airline cannot charge passengers a lower price for a flight than the tax or air charges which must be paid by each passenger. 

Passenger protection

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

(a) Flight delays and cancellations?

All French airlines are subject to EU Regulation 261/2004, which governs passenger rights in the event of delayed or cancelled flights. In the case of a delay of three hours or the cancellation of a flight, Articles 5 and 7 of the regulation provide passengers with a right to:

  • accommodation or a meal, as appropriate;
  • rerouting when a flight is cancelled; and
  • fixed-sum compensation as follows:
  • €250 for flights of 1,500 kilometres (km) or less;
  • €400 for all intra-EU flights of more than 1,500 km and for all other flights of between 1,500 km and 3,500 km; and
  • €600 for all flights which are not covered by the first two bullet points.

These payments are not due if the airline can demonstrate that the delay or cancellation happened for a reason beyond its control. They can also be reduced in certain circumstances.

(b) Oversold flights?

Where a flight is oversold, Article 4 of EU Regulation 261/2004 requires the airline to ask for volunteers to surrender their seats. These volunteers will be rerouted in exchange for benefits agreed between the airline and the passenger.

If there are insufficient volunteers, the passengers who are refused embarkation will be:

  • rerouted;
  • provided with food and accommodation; and
  • compensated under Article 7 of EU Regulation 261/2004 (see above).

(c) Denied boarding?

Where a passenger is refused boarding on a flight and this is unjustified, Article 4 of EU Regulation 261/2004 will apply (see above with reference to oversold flights).

However, denying boarding to a passenger may be justified for certain reasons (eg, health, safety, security, a lack of adequate documentation or late arrival for boarding). 

(d) Access for disabled passengers?

Access for disabled passengers is covered by EU Regulation 1107/2006. Article 3 of the regulation prohibits airlines from refusing to board disabled persons and Article 4 allows for boarding to be denied for safety reasons or if the aircraft’s size or doors render boarding impossible.

The refusal to board a disabled person with reduced mobility is a criminal offence under Article 225-1 of the Criminal Code, which can result in a fine of up to €225,000 in addition to other penalties, such as prohibition from operating. 

(e) Lost, damaged or destroyed luggage?

French airlines are bound by the Montreal Convention pursuant to EU Regulation 889/2002. Article 17-2 of the Montreal Convention is applicable with regard to late, lost or destroyed luggage.

Passengers are entitled to compensation of up to 1,131 special drawing rights, which can be increased if they make a special declaration of interest, provided that they have in no way contributed to the damage (eg, by placing forbidden articles in their baggage).

(f) Retention and protection of passenger data?

Pursuant to Law 78-17/1978 pertaining to IT, databases and civil liberties, airlines must process personal customer data in a fair, adequate and loyal manner. It is forbidden, for example, to collect data concerning the ethnic origin of passengers.

Airlines must set a fixed period for the retention of personal data and risk criminal penalties if this timeframe is not met. This fixed period must be appropriate to the purpose of data processing.

Passengers have a right to access and amend their personal data and oppose its use for commercial purposes. The National Commission for Data Protection and Civil Liberties has the power to monitor and penalise with regard to personal data processing.

Cargo

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

In accordance with Article L.6422-2 of the Code of Transport, the Warsaw Convention governs domestic air freight.

With regard to international air carriage, the airline’s responsibility will be subject to the Montreal Convention if the flight is between two countries which have ratified said convention. If the departure or arrival country has not ratified the Montreal Convention, the Warsaw Convention will apply.

The airline’s responsibility is limited to 19 SDR per kilogram under the Montreal Convention and 16.583 SDR under the Warsaw Convention.

These limits are not applicable in cases where there is an inexcusable or grave error on the part of the airline.

Marketing and advertising

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

There are no specific rules regarding marketing and advertising for the airline industry. Flying clubs cannot canvass or take paid advertising for this type of activity (eg, they are forbidden from advertising their services in newspapers).

Complaints handling

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

With respect to the attribution of judicial and territorial competence, the rules of common law are applied. The statute of limitations of common law will also be applied, except for requests based on the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions, which are subject to a two-year limit.

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