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Consumer protection and liability

Airfares

Are airfares regulated in your jurisdiction?

Airfares are regulated by the Civil Aviation (Air Fares) Regulations, which distinguish between air carriers of agreement and non-agreement states. ‘Agreement states’ are those which have entered into an agreement with Malta reciprocally granting citizens the right to:

  • enter, remain, reside in and leave the other state;
  • move freely within the other state for such period as may be established in the agreement; and
  • work or establish, provide or receive services in the other state.

Carriers from agreement states can set their own airfares, provided that they inform the general public, on request, of all air fares and standard cargo rates. The Civil Aviation Directorate (CAD) may withdraw a basic fare which is excessively high and stop further decreases in fares resulting in widespread losses among all air carriers.

Carriers from non-agreement states must seek approval of their fares from the CAD.

Passenger protection

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

(a) Flight delays and cancellations?

Flight delays and cancellations are regulated by the EU Flight Compensation Regulation (261/2004) and the Denied Boarding (Compensation and Assistance to Air Passengers) Regulations, which largely implement the EU regulation.

Delays Delays which attract liability and obligations are defined under three categories:

  • delays of two hours or more for flights of 1,500 kilometres (km) or less; 
  • delays of three hours or more for intra-EU flights of more than 1,500 km and for all other flights of between 1,500 km and 3,500 km; and
  • delays of four hours or more for all flights not falling under points one or two above.

Where a delay is for five hours or more, the air carrier must offer passengers full reimbursement of their ticket and, when relevant, a return flight to their first point of departure.

Where a delay is for one day or more, the passengers must be offered free hotel accommodation and transport from the airport to the hotel.

In all cases of delay, passengers must be offered free meals and refreshments and two phone calls, text messages or emails.    

Cancellations

In all cases of cancellation, passengers must be offered a choice between:

  • full reimbursement of their ticket and, when relevant, a return flight to their first point of departure;
  • rerouting to their final destination at the earliest opportunity; and
  • rerouting at a later date at the passengers’ convenience, subject to seat availability.

The passengers must also be offered free meals and refreshments and two phone calls, text messages or emails. When the passenger opts for rerouting and this is expected to occur the next day, he or she must be offered free hotel accommodation and transport from the airport to the hotel.

In case of cancellations, the air carrier is liable to pay compensation of:

  • €250 for all flights of 1,500 km or less;
  • €400 for all intra-EU flights of more than 1,500 km and other flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km; and
  • €600 for all other flights.

The air carrier is exempt if it informs the passengers of the cancellation or proves that the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

In case of non-compliance with the above obligations, the Denied Boarding (Compensation and Assistance to Air Passengers) Regulations impose an administrative fine of between €470 and €5,000 on the air carrier.

(b) Oversold flights?

Under EU Regulation 261/2004, an air carrier must first call for volunteers to surrender their seats in exchange for benefits under conditions to be agreed between them and the air carrier. Volunteers must be offered the choice between:

  • full reimbursement of their ticket and, when relevant, a return flight to their first point of departure;
  • rerouting to their final destination at the earliest opportunity; or
  • rerouting at a later date at the volunteers’ convenience, subject to seat availability.

If there are insufficient volunteers, the air carrier may deny boarding to passengers against their will.

The same administrative fines apply as for non-compliance.

(c) Denied boarding?

Under EU Regulation 261/2004, passengers who are denied boarding must be offered the option to choose between reimbursement and rerouting, as is the case for volunteers in case of oversold flights. When a passenger opts for rerouting and this is expected to occur the next day, he or she must be offered free hotel accommodation and transport from the airport to the hotel. The passenger must also be offered free meals and refreshments, as well as two phone calls, text messages or emails.

The same administrative fines apply as for non-compliance.

(d) Access for disabled passengers?

Under EU Regulation 261/2004, air carriers must prioritise persons with reduced mobility and any persons or certified service dogs accompanying them. In case of delays, cancellations or denied boarding, air carriers must pay particular attention to the needs of these persons when it comes to their right of being offered meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation, transport and two phone calls, text messages or emails.

The same administrative fines apply as for non-compliance.

Further, the EU Reduced Mobility Rights Regulation (1107/2006) specifically prohibits air carriers from refusing to accept a reservation or embark a passenger on the grounds of disability or reduced mobility.

(e) Lost, damaged or destroyed luggage?

Malta has ratified the Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, under which passengers can claim up to 1,131 special drawing rights (SDR) – which are a weighted average of various convertible currencies and the International Monetary Fund unit of account – in compensation.

(f) Retention and protection of passenger data?

Data retention and protection rules are set out in EU Regulation 80/2009 on a code of conduct for computerised reservation systems, which has been implemented in Malta through the enactment of the Code of Conduct for Computerised Reservation Systems Act. The act established the Computerised Reservation Systems Board, which has the power to impose penalties of up to 10% of the annual turnover for the activity that led to the infringement on:

  • system vendors;
  • parent carriers;
  • participating carriers; and
  • subscribers.

Cargo

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

Malta has ratified the Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, which governs the rules relating to the carriage of cargo by air. Under this convention, in the case of destruction, loss, damage or delay, the air carrier is liable to pay up to 19 SDR per kilogram. However, if the arrival or departure country has not ratified the Montreal Convention, the Warsaw Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules relating to International Carriage by Air, as amended by the Hague Protocol, applies.

Marketing and advertising

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

No.    

Complaints handling

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

EU Regulation 261/2004 mandates EU member states with designated national enforcement bodies and includes a complaint form for denied boarding, downgrading or a cancellation or long delay. In Malta, this complaint form can be accessed from and filed with the Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.

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