UK travel industry calls on Rishi Sunak to strengthen aviation regulator’s powers

posted on 21st August 2023 by William Hallowell
UK travel industry calls on Rishi Sunak to strengthen aviation regulator's powers

Leading travel businesses have joined Which? in calling on the UK government to give the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) greater powers to fine airlines that flout flight cancellation, delay and refund rules.

In a letter to the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, signatories urge him to show his support for British holidaymakers by agreeing to strengthen the CAA’s enforcement powers through this autumn’s King’s Speech.

It added that airlines are “routinely failing” to “uphold their customers’ legal rights to rerouting and refunds, and provide clear and timely passenger information” amid air travel disruption throughout the holiday season.

The businesses say the aviation regulator, the CAA, is without the proper authority to hold airlines to account where they say unlawful behaviour has been committed.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “Thousands of passengers have been subjected to unfair and in some cases unlawful treatment by airlines and enough is enough.“We’re calling on the PM to show he is on the side of holidaymakers by giving the aviation regulator the power to issue substantial fines to airlines when they flout the law.”

Signatories of the letter include senior executives of Thomas Cook, Explore, loveholidays, On The Beach, RWH Travel Limited and Riviera Travel.

They also include the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO), TravelUp Group, the Advantage Travel Partnership and law firm Lovetts Solicitors.

Which?, the consumer champion, says the CAA needs to be more proactive about enforcing punishments on airlines that flout the law, adding that the government needs to make moves to protect passengers’ rights where airlines are at fault for delays and cancellations.

Addressing Mr Sunak directly, the businesses said: “If you, as prime minister, intervened on behalf of passengers by enabling the regulator to take action, it would send a strong message to airlines that their behaviour is unacceptable and put enforcement of UK passenger rights on a par with countries elsewhere.”

New figures from the Civil Aviation Authority this week show that almost a third (32 per cent) of flights departing from UK airports were delayed or cancelled in the first five months of this year.

In Which?’s recent airline survey, almost half (45 per cent) of those who suffered a delay reported there not being airline staff available to assist them. Where staff were available, almost a fifth of respondents (19 per cent) felt that they were not helpful.

While a Department for Transport spokesperson said it can’t speculate on what will be included in next year’s King’s Speech – where the UK government sets out its legislative agenda for the next year – the government supports the notion that stronger enforcement of powers by the CAA would improve standards for all passengers.

In June, the government announced plans – in part – to strengthen the regulator’s enforcement powers.

Paul Smith, joint-interim chief executive of the CAA, said in response to the letter: “We have long called for a stronger enforcement toolkit to bring us in line with other regulators.

“The plans announced achieve this and will help ensure that the Civil Aviation Authority is better equipped to hold industry to account in meeting their obligations to passengers.”

Last month, an independent review of the CAA found it was “highly effective” as the aviation regulator.

Image credit: 10 Downing Street/Flickr