The Package Travel Directive (PTD) has been in force in all Member States since 2018, applying to package travel and linked travel arrangements, and was designed to provide clarity and safeguard travellers by establishing a clear set of rules covering liability and insolvency above all and envisaging guarantees for refunds and repatriation.
Recent crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light some shortcomings within its framework, revealing the need for a review. The revision was first listed in the Commission’s new Consumer Agenda in November 2020, and in 2022 the Fit for Future stakeholder platform made recommendations for the simplification and clarification of existing rules.
During a meeting hosted by the Tourism Task Force of European Parliament’s TRAN Committee on Wednesday, Mr Robert Mathiak, Head of Sector at the European Commission DG JUST confirmed that a proposal for revision is planned to be adopted on 29 November.
MEPs and stakeholders already brought up several critical issues such as the significant liquidity crisis the travel industry faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eric Dresin, Secretary General of the European Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators, emphasized the financial challenges that impacted suppliers like airlines and hotels, intermediaries, and ultimately consumers. According to Dresin, the COVID-19 crisis not only highlighted the urgency of revising the Package Travel Directive but underscored the need to address critical issues in the travel industry’s payment, liability, and protection systems. Dresin also noted that the current revision mostly focuses on intermediaries and called for a broader approach that equally addresses issues on the supplier side, particularly airlines, while also ensuring balance and resilience against possible future crises.
The Package Travel Directive review might also feature a revision of the current prepayment system, which also notably presented issues during the pandemic. It was Steven Berger in particular, Senior Legal officer at the European Consumer Organisation BEUC, who emphasised the inefficiency and precarity of this system, calling for the Commission to include appropriate restrictions in the review. Other than this, he also called for harmonized rules on insolvency among Member States, and suggested the establishment of B2B refund rules to ensure timely refunds to platforms and consumers.
Prepayment was supported by Ralf Pastleitner, Director of International Public Policy & EU Affairs at TUI Group. It’s precisely thanks to prepayments that platforms are able to make arrangements with service providers, invest money in the improvement of facilities and guarantee protection and high-quality services to consumers, Pastleitner argued. At the same time, he also acknowledged some shortcomings in the Directive and stressed that the Commission needs to clarify what constitutes a package and what protections have to be granted in that case, to also help customers be comprehensively and correctly informed.
Package Travel Directive revision will represent a pivotal element for European tourism, addressing most of the challenges that came up during the COVID pandemic, but it is still unsure whether or not a final agreement will be reached before the end of the current legislative term. As the Chair of the TRAN Committee MEP Karima Delli stressed at the end of the debate, the proposal will come at the very end of the year, leaving very little time for the Parliament and the Council to come up with their position and agree on a final text.