BRUSSELS - The European Union agreed Jan. 26 to boost compensation for air passengers who are "bumped off" overbooked flights or let down by cancellations or delays.EU foreign ministers agreed on the measures - which include a near doubling of payouts to disappointed passengers - to protect the roughly 250,000 passengers affected annually, according to European Commission figures.
Compensation will cover three categories of trips: 250 euros for flights of less than 1,500 kilometers, 400 euros for flights within the EU of over 1,500 kilometers or flights of 1,500 - 3,500 kilometers, and 600 euros for all other flights.
The EU executive welcomed the move. "Too many times air passengers are victims of practices which deserve that they receive a fair treatment and proper compensation," said Loyola de Palacio, the EU's transport commissioner.
"Henceforth they will all benefit from new strengthened rights," she added.
Under the new law, compensation must be paid immediately in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank checks or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers or other services.
Britain and Ireland voted against the law, which will come into force early next year, while Germany abstained.
The new regulation will replace the existing one dating from 1991, which is limited as it does not effectively deter airlines from denying boarding or cover cancellations due to commercial reasons or long delays. Nor does it apply to nonscheduled flights, chartered by tour operators.
"This will change radically with the new regulation, which will give passengers effective, all-round protection," said the commission.