Airlines should bear no financial burden for the care of passengers resulting from events that are outside their control and the law that obliges them to do so must be amended before routes become unsustainable and jobs are lost. This is the message given by the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) to the European Council of Transport Ministers prior to its meeting on 24 June to discuss passenger care obligations imposed on airlines by EU Regulation 261/2004 in the context of the volcanic ash crisis. “Regulation 261/2004 needs redrafting as airlines simply cannot bankroll this Regulation and stay in business, never mind make enough profit to invest in new and more environmentally friendly aircraft”, says ERA director general, Mike Ambrose, noting that airlines affected by the volcanic ash disruption have yet to receive any financial compensation from their respective member states. “It is unreasonable for any of Europe’s institutions to expect airlines to threaten their own viability (and jobs) by blind adherence to a badly drafted Regulation. Some airlines are already facing the situation in which they could be better served by ignoring the Regulation and fighting any resultant court case,” said Ambrose.ERA notes that European law (current or under development) for other modes of transport, including rail, ferries, buses and coaches does not impose this burden and no other government elsewhere in the world has imposed such financial obligations on its airlines. Furthermore, in explaining its reasons for removing such financial obligation from bus and coach operators, the EU Council states that this “forms part of the general objective of the European Union to ensure equal treatment of passengers, irrespective of the mode of travel they have chosen to travel with.” Europe’s air passengers did not have this protection prior to the introduction of EU Regulation 261/2004 in 2005. There is no historic evidence of major difficulties prior to 2005. Consequently, ERA believes that, on grounds of reasonableness and non-discrimination, air passengers should be treated as other passengers. “ERA is willing to cooperate with the European Commission to ensure that any new Regulation introduces realistic limits on liability and is practicable, proportionate, and consistent across transport modes, thereby meeting the Council’s objectives,” said Ambrose.