News | 02.07.2010

EU multilingual campaign to raise awareness of passenger rights

Increased mobility in Europe has led the European Commission to launch a multilingual awareness-raising campaign informing passengers about their rights when travelling by air or rail. Covering 23 languages and unveiled on 29 June 2010 to coincide with the holiday season, the two-year scheme shall enable passengers throughout Europe to access this legal information in their native language and ultimately become better informed about their rights when abroad.

The European Commission press release states that even though legislation is already in place to ensure the same standard of customer care throughout the European Union, many passengers are unaware of their entitlements in this regard. Hence this recent campaign which involves 23 different languages, multilingual leaflets and posters at train stations and airports, and a new website that is available in every official EU language. Rights regarding lost or damaged luggage, delays and cancellations are dealt with and in the near future, it is anticipated that similar campaigns will be rolled out for other forms of transport.

Another service that suffers from a lack of awareness is the European-wide emergency telephone number, 112 – a number which can be called anywhere in the EU from both landlines and mobiles, with multilingual operators in place to take calls. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, only 25% of EU citizens are able to identify this number and 10% of callers experience language problems when using the 112 service. This prompted the creation of European 112 Day which takes place every year on 11 February. The language initiatives involved in promoting this service include a website available in English, French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish; and a website for children that is accessible in 23 languages and which includes a multilingual interactive quiz.

The languages available for the 112 service vary from country to country, along with awareness levels of the service itself. For example, the percentage of citizens aware of the 112 number range from 8% in the UK to 61% in the Czech Republic. In respect of languages offered (in addition to a country’s national languages) the UK and Sweden provide an interpreting service covering 170 languages and all major European languages respectively; operators in Finland speak Swedish and English, with French and German languages covered by interpreters; and in Romania, English and French is offered, with the additional facility to transfer a call to other emergency services that cover German, Hungarian, Italian, Russian and Spanish.

There is no doubt that hundreds of thousands of travellers across Europe will benefit from the awareness-raising campaigns of both initiatives. And taking into account the chaos caused by the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland when volcanic ash brought Europe to a standstill earlier this year, the importance of proper translating and interpreting services, and easily accessible multilingual information cannot be stressed enough.


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