Knowledge Platform

Passenger Relationships

It is not just statutory legislation that governs the relationship between passenger and carrier. The terms and conditions of booking and the conditions of carriage, often standard form documents, are equally as relevant, often building upon the statutory liability and passenger rights regimes (that will apply regardless of any express reference to them), and setting out the commercial basis upon which the parties are prepared to contract (i.e. payment terms, changes to bookings etc.).

The contractual provisions will usually be subject to the provisions of a particular Member State’s law – more often than not being the principal place of business of the travel provider or country where the travel service is offered for sale – i.e. the place of residence of the consumer.

Some providers choose to have different terms and conditions and conditions of carriage depending on the location of the consumer to address the differing standards of consumer protection. It is notable that despite efforts by the EU Commission to harmonise consumer protection, consumer protection in relation to contract terms is largely regulated at national level [18].

In a typical package scenario a passenger may be subject to a number of different contractual regimes. Where a package – combining hotel accommodation and travel by air - is booked through an online tour operator for example, the passenger will be subject to the website terms of use, any privacy policy, the booking terms and conditions of the tour operator and the conditions of carriage of the airline, as well any additional terms and conditions laid down by the accommodation supplier.

In order to secure equal rights for passengers, a uniform industry-wide approach and importantly to ensure compliance with the various information requirements of the numerous liability and passenger rights regimes which may apply to the travel arrangement a number of international and national transport organisations provide their members with standard form booking terms and conditions and conditions of carriage [19]. These standard form documents also narrow the circumstances, to the extent possible, in which a contradiction between the terms of the various travel service providers and the statutory liability regimes that have been laid down at either a European or national level may arise.

In the context of creating a multi-modal transport ecosystem, the proliferation of standard form booking terms and conditions and conditions of carriage – incorporating all of the various regimes – whatever form they may eventually take - is key to ensuring contractual certainty both for the passenger and from a more commercial perspective for travel service providers. This will not be possible however without the ‘buy-in’ of key stakeholders. 

Further input should be sought from key industry associations such as IATA, ECTAA, COTIF, ATOC, ETOC, ESPO, CLIA etc. regarding the likely reception of multi-modal standard form booking conditions and conditions of carriage. 

[18] Although note Distance Selling Regulations, Consumer Protection Directive. 

[19] See for example: IATA Standards Conditions of Carriage: 
and CIT: General Conditions of Carriage for Rail Passengers: