여hen packing for a summer holiday, the list of essentials to remember is increasing. Passport, boarding pass, sunglasses and a sensible hat are all non-negotiable. Now it seems we need rations for a six-hour queue, camping equipment in case we are forced to bed down for the night on a cold terminal floor, and a comprehensive grounding in consumer rights law in preparation for the airline cancelling our flight or losing our bags.
그만큼 scenes in UK airports in recent weeks – children in tears, baggage piling up, long-awaited first post-Covid holidays denied – have been difficult to watch. And the reality is that some of the problems that have caused the disruption do not have quick fixes. It could take weeks or months to sort out the staffing shortages that have hit some airports and airlines.
Yet the appalling treatment that passengers have suffered at the hands of some airlines is not inevitable – and could be fixed. Recent events should be a watershed moment and used as an opportunity to reform the travel sector so that passengers’ rights are respected.
So the need for strengthened passenger rights is not new. 에 2018, Ryanair refused to compensate passengers affected by its pilots striking. The high court instructed the airline to pay compensation for cancelled or delayed flights after the regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) took legal action, but Ryanair argued that the circumstances were extraordinary and refused. The case is still dragging through the courts, almost four years on.
작년, Ryanair and BA were investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) because they refused refunds to customers who couldn’t legally take flights due to Covid restrictions. The investigation was ultimately dropped by the CMA due to a “lack of clarity in the law”, but the regulator said it “strongly believed” the airlines should have given customers their money back.
The government is currently consulting on reforms of air passenger rights. Everyone agrees on the importance of ensuring a resilient travel sector emerges from the battering it took during the pandemic. But for airlines and holiday firms to flourish, it’s vital that damaged consumer trust is restored.
하나, some of the government’s current plans are too focused on opportunistic demands from some airlines. Now is not the time to consider slashing compensation payouts for passengers whose domestic flights are severely delayed or cancelled – particularly when airlines have refused to provide any evidence for claims that paying compensation is an intolerable burden on their business. At Which? we found the government’s current proposals could slash average payouts by £163 per passenger – while at the same time removing one of the most important deterrents against airlines delaying, overbooking or cancelling flights at short notice.
The government must prioritise giving the CAA the powers it needs to ensure airlines follow the rules and are held accountable when they don’t. Which?'에스 latest investigation found a number of airlines have misleading terms and conditions that could potentially be illegal. Is it any wonder that some airlines have taken such a cavalier attitude to passengers’ rights during the recent disruption?
If your flight has been delayed or cancelled, airlines should be rerouting you via any reasonable route, even if that means with another carrier – but not all airlines are doing this, meaning some passengers being left stranded or forced to pay for another flight out of their own pocket. That’s unacceptable. Yet airlines feel empowered to act in this way because they know from experience that they will get away with it.
The CAA should be given stronger enforcement powers, including the ability to fine airlines directly when they break the rules. To provide clarity to both passengers and the industry, the CAA should also establish a consumer-focused code of conduct for airlines operating in the UK, with the objective of holding operators accountable for their behaviour.
In our new report, Final boarding call: Which? Vision for consumer reforms in the aviation and package holiday sector, Which? is also calling on the government to reform the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system and set up a single, statutory-backed ombudsman in aviation to make it easier, cheaper and quicker for passengers to escalate complaints without having to go to court.
이번 여름, the best advice for passengers will most likely be to turn up at the airport and be prepared to stand up for your rights if things go wrong – especially if your flight is cancelled at the last minute. We know from the passenger stories we have heard that those who are prepared to insist on airlines meeting their legal obligations are more likely to get a satisfactory outcome.
Passengers shouldn’t have to do this just to receive what they’re entitled to. Airlines should step up, and ministers should give the CAA teeth to punish those who don’t. Without action, there could be more turbulent times ahead for passengers and the travel industry.