The Council of Ministers recently approved preliminary draft legislation amending the Passenger Data Processing Act. Among other things, the proposed changes concern the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data, data exchanges and the cross-checking of passenger data following the identification of suspicious passengers. The changes aim to bring the act into line with the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
In the aftermath of the numerous terrorist attacks in the European Union, EU member states agreed that additional measures were needed regarding the use of passenger name record data. Belgium has implemented a legal framework for passenger name record data based on EU legislation. It is hoped that the framework will enable all actors to achieve the main aim of fighting terrorist threats and serious crime.
As part of the Federal Public Service for Mobility and Transport, the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for developing and maintaining the Belgian Aviation Safety Programme (BASP) in accordance with EU and international requirements on behalf of the state. The cornerstones of the aviation safety policy set out in the BASP are safety management, continuous improvement and a risk-based approach.
A legal vacuum has been filled with a new royal decree on the use of remote controlled aircraft in Belgian airspace. All market players ‒ from manufacturers to service providers ‒ can now develop their activities within the new legal framework, under which safety is paramount. The new regulatory regime provides the required legal certainty to commercialise and operate drones in Belgium, which has been welcomed by the sector.
The Chicago Convention provides that all aircraft must be registered with a national aviation authority and must carry evidence of this registration in the form of a certificate of registration at all times when in operation. The Belgian Aircraft Registry is an operator registry, meaning that aircraft are registered under the name of the operator only. In order to register an aircraft, an operator must submit documents evidencing its title, ownership or lease over the aircraft.
Legislation governing the civil and commercial use of drones in Belgium is limited, but a recently announced draft royal decree aims to fill the legal vacuum. Under the decree, commercial operators will need to register their activity with the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority and take out specific insurance. However, the decree will not apply to toy drones used by children under 14 or to drones used solely for recreational purposes.
The Court of Cassation recently reaffirmed that air carriers have no duty to inform passengers about required travel and immigration documents. Therefore, carriers bear no liability for denying boarding to passengers who do not comply with the applicable laws.
The exemption regime applicable to general aviation ground handling at Brussels Airport, pursuant to Article 19 of the Royal Decree of November 6 2010, regulates access to the ground handling market at Brussels Airport. The decree was recently amended by a new royal decree, which added two definitions to clarify that the exemption regime also applies to business and private charter aviation.
The Pinel Law has modified the rules relating to the establishment of businesses on state property. Although the reform is intended to make it easier for businesses to be established within French airports, the extent to which it will do so remains to be seen, as only those businesses with their own client base can benefit from the reforms.
Although a strict reading of EU Regulation 261/2004 would suggest that passengers whose flights have merely been delayed are not entitled to compensation, the European Court of Justice has held to the contrary. Despite these rulings, some French courts have still applied a strict interpretation of the regulation and its narrow legal regime in respect of delayed flights. However, the Court of Cassation has now finally aligned its case law.
The applicability of the EU regulations governing passenger claims has often been the subject of intense legal debate. A Brussels court recently confirmed Article 5 of the EU Brussels I Regulation as the mandatory legal framework on jurisdiction with regard to passenger claims for compensation. The decision has increased legal certainty in an area pervaded by ample pro-consumer case law.
The Court of Cassation has reiterated the basis on which a carrier may be liable where a passenger falls during disembarking operations, in accordance with Article 17 of the convention, which applies to domestic transport within EU member states. The decision should reassure both domestic and international carriers as to the manner in which French courts will apply Article 17.
The civil drone market is expanding rapidly. However, the increasing use of civil drones poses obvious problems. For example, there have been reports of unauthorised drones flying over nuclear power stations, raising major security concerns. It is in this context that the French government has decided to review the legislation applicable to civil drones.
The Belgian Ministry of Public Health and the Brussels Airport Company have recently put several measures into place at Brussels Airport in order to reduce the Ebola infection risk, including compulsory temperature screening for passengers flying from Ebola-stricken countries. It is not unthinkable that these measures will be extended if the Ebola threat expands to other countries.
Since the European Court of Justice Sturgeon decision and its extension of the lump-sum compensation under EU Regulation 261/2004 to all flight delays exceeding three hours, there has been a considerable increase in litigation in France between passengers and air carriers. However, with the introduction of class actions into French law, this may now change.
The Law of April 4 2014 on Insurance was recently published in the Official Gazette and will enter into force in November 2014. Although at first glance the new law seems to create uncertainty regarding aviation insurance – especially with regard to its effect on the direct right of action granted to an injured party against the insurer – its actual impact on aviation insurance contracts is likely to be limited.
The government recently issued a decree-law repealing an earlier decree-law which introduced a 5% to 10% bonus on the feed-in tariff for all types of solar power plant meeting specific requirements regarding the EU origin of photovoltaic materials. The bonus had been intended to encourage the construction of photovoltaic power plants.
For the purposes of cargo claims, the courts have invariably held that the criterion of the "place of business through which the contract has been made" is satisfied where an establishment of the carrier was involved in the issuing of the air waybill. A recent decision by the Paris Court of Appeal has upheld and clarified this notion.
The EU Aviation Emissions Trading Scheme Directive extends the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading to aviation activities. Enforcement of the directive has been fiercely debated in Belgium, which has faced implementation issues on a regional level. Proposed amendments to the emissions trading scheme have created only further uncertainty over the country's enforcement of the scheme.
In a recent decision the Court of Appeal held itself bound by the long-established principle that where a proposal form contains a basis of contract clause, it has contractual effect – even if the policy contains no reference to it – and all statements in the proposal form constitute warranties on which the insurance contract is based and cannot therefore be treated as immaterial.