Customers of bus carriers are also entitled to information. Article 20 of Regulation 180/2011 contains detailed provisions on the information to be provided in the event of cancellation or delay of departure.
Where a carrier reasonably expects the departure of a regular service from a terminal to be cancelled or delayed for more than 120 minutes, passengers have the right to choose between continuation or re-routing to the final destination at no additional cost at the earliest opportunity under comparable conditions or reimbursement of the full ticket price. This can be combined, where relevant, with a free of charge return service at the earliest opportunity to the first point of departure set out in the transport contract. The same choice is available to the passenger if the departure is cancelled or delayed from a bus stop.
Just as with rail transport, if circumstances related to COVID-19 arise, a significant delay may occur and the carrier will not be able to provide a service “the earliest opportunity” or have any information when it can provide it. In the same way, the company must inform its passengers of this circumstance and inform them that they also have an option to reimburse the amount for the ticket.
Where the departure of a long-distance service with a scheduled duration of more than 3 hours is cancelled or delayed for more than 90 minutes, passengers are entitled to snacks, meals or refreshments, in reasonable relation to the waiting time, provided they are available on the bus or in the terminal or can reasonably be supplied. Accommodation needs to be provided if passengers have to stay overnight – for up to 2 nights, at a maximum rate of €80 per night – and transport to their accommodation and return to the terminal.
This Regulation contains nothing that would allow the conclusion that the carrier can be exempted from all its obligations, including those for assistance. The intention of the Regulation is to ensure that adequate care is provided in particular to passengers waiting for re-routing under Article 21.
The passengers have the right to compensation under the conditions set out in Article 19(2) of Regulation (EC) No 181/2011. It amounts to 50 % of the ticket price in case the service is cancelled, but is available only if the carrier fails to offer the passenger the choice between reimbursement and rerouting.
As further specified in detail in Article 16 of Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010, passengers must be informed of the situation as soon as possible and in any event not later than 30 minutes after the scheduled time of departure and of the estimated departure time and estimated arrival time as soon as that information is available.
Where a carrier reasonably expects a passenger service to be cancelled or delayed in departure from a port terminal for more than 90 minutes, the carrier must offer passengers a choice between two possibilities:
As regards continuation of the journey/ re-routing, and as explained above, “the earliest opportunity” may under the circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak imply considerable delay, and the same may apply to the availability of concrete information on such “opportunity” given the high level of uncertainty affecting sea and inland waterway traffic.
First, passengers should be informed about delays and/or uncertainties when offering them the choice between re-routing and reimbursement.
Second, should a passenger choose nonetheless re-routing at the earliest opportunity, the carrier should be considered to have fulfilled its information obligation towards the passenger if it communicated on its own initiative, as soon as possible and in good time, the service available for rerouting.
The provisions on re-routing and reimbursement as well as compensation do not apply to cruise ships (Article 2 (1)(c)).
Passengers are entitled to 1) assistance in the form of snacks, meals or refreshments, in proportion to the waiting time, provided they are available or can reasonably be supplied and 2) accommodation if passengers where a stay of one or more nights or a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary – for up to 3 nights, at a maximum rate of €80 per night – and 3) transport to the accommodation and return to the terminal.
Without losing the right to transport, passengers may request compensation from the carrier if they are facing a delay in arrival at the final destination as set out in the transport contract. The minimum level of compensation must be 25 % of the ticket price for varying delays, in function of the scheduled duration of the journey. If the delay exceeds double that duration, the compensation must be 50 % of the ticket price. Details are set out in Article 19 of Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010.
The Commission considers that, where public authorities take measures intended to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, such measures are by their nature and origin not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of carriers and are outside their actual control.
Article 20(4) waives the right to compensation on condition that the cancellation in question “is caused” by extraordinary circumstances, hindering the performance of the passenger service which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.
This condition should be considered fulfilled, where public authorities either outright prohibit certain transport services or ban the movement of persons in a manner that excludes, de facto, the transport service in question to be operated.
This condition may also be fulfilled, where the cancellation occurs in circumstances where the corresponding movement of persons is not entirely prohibited, but limited to persons benefitting from derogations (for example nationals or residents of the state concerned).
Where the carrier decides to cancel a transport service and shows that this decision was justified on grounds of protecting the health of the crew, such cancellation should also be considered as “caused” by extraordinary circumstances.
The above considerations are not and cannot be exhaustive in that other specific circumstances in relation to Covid-19 may also fall under the ambit of Article 20(4).
The rights of passengers in a situation of a pandemic of Covid-19 in air transport can be seen in the previous article of the section “Consumer Reader”, WHAT ARE YOUR AIR TRANSPORT RIGHTS UNDER A COVID-19 PANDEMIC?.
For consumers’ rights in rail transport in a situation of pandemic by Covid-19, you can learn in the article WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS AS A RAIL TRANSPORT CONSUMER DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?