Airlines could be forced to offer passengers compensation if their domestic flight is an hour late, according to new UK ministers’ plans.
Under the new plans, the UK Government will replace the current EU rules – which allow passengers to ask for compensation if flights are delayed by more than three hours – with a system that links the delay’s length with the cost of travel.
“People deserve a service that puts passengers first when things go wrong, so today I’ve launched proposals that aim to bolster airline consumer protections and rights,” said transport secretary Grant Shapps. “We’re making the most of our Brexit dividend with our new freedoms outside of the EU and this review will help build a trustworthy, reputable sector.”
The Department for Transport is also considering mandating airlines to be part of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) schemes, which airlines can voluntarily join within the current framework.
By forcing all airlines to adopt ADR, the government will give travellers a route for escalating complaints without having to go to court.
Shapps is also proposing to strengthen the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) role, giving it powers to fine those airlines who don’t refund customers within seven days.
“The proposals will improve passenger rights and equip the Civil Aviation Authority with the appropriate tools to act swiftly and effectively for the benefit of consumers,” said Richard Moriarty, CAA’s chief executive. “The ADR scheme has helped thousands of consumers seek redress from their airline or airport and we welcome the proposal to bring more airlines onto the scheme.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said customer satisfaction was still high, at 82 per cent.
“We look forward to responding to the consultation, whilst continuing to deliver for our passengers as we look ahead to the spring and summer season and the sector’s eventual recovery from Covid,” he told City A.M.
According to David Warnock-Smith, aviation management professor at Buckinghamshire New University, the move could also have cons.
“The main downside, however, would be that airline liabilities to pay refunds could kick in after shorter delays of 1 hour, which would bring domestic air travel more in line with mandated refund policies governing long distance rail travel in the UK,” he told City A.M. “Also there would be uncertainty around who would be liable to make payouts in cases where airlines demonstrate delays were out of their control.”
Other plans include mandating carriers to refund people with mobility issues in full for damages caused to the wheelchair or mobility scooter.