Trade joins Which? in urging powers for CAA to fine airlines

Rishi Sunak is being urged by an industry group to beef up the powers of the Civil Aviation Authority to fine airlines for flouting flight cancellation, delay and refund rules.

The Association of Independent Tour Operators, Advantage Travel Partnership, plus OTAs loveholidays, On the Beach and Thomas Cook have joined consumer champion Which? to call for action in a letter to the prime minister.

Others signing the letter include the bosses of Explore, Riviera Travel, and Ramblers Walking Holidays. 

Both the Department for Transport and an independent review of the CAA recently made recommendations for the aviation regulator to be given stronger enforcement powers, but the industry lobby argues that the government has so far failed to give any indication of when legislation will be brought forward. 

The consumer body now wants powers enabling the CAA to fine airlines directly to be set out as part of the government’s fresh legislative agenda in the King’s Speech on November 7.

The letter to the PM says: “There’s a significant imbalance between the legal obligations of airlines for flight only bookings when compared to package holiday providers, with the latter exposed to unnecessary financial risk if airlines fail to comply with the law. With the CAA unable to take action, both consumers and businesses lose out.”

It adds: “The Department for Transport has recognised the plight of UK travellers and we strongly welcomed its recent commitment to strengthening the regulator’s enforcement powers in its response to its Aviation Consumer Reform Consultation.

“However, the government has yet to set out a timetable for delivering this reform. With limited time in the Parliamentary calendar before the next General Election, it is key the Government demonstrates to airlines and passengers that this is not an empty promise.”

Which? says countless travellers have been in touch feeling let down by airlines or suffered poor customer service, with more than 1,000 submitting evidence to an independent review of the CAA.

Last year’s Queen’s Speech promised a wide-ranging Transport Bill which never materialised. 

The CAA last month revealed that it would be taking enforcement action against Wizz Air, after months of reports that passengers were having difficulty obtaining refunds and compensation. 

Although the CAA is now taking enforcement action, the regulator is reliant on undertakings from Wizz Air to comply. 

The CAA’s only recourse if the airline fails to agree is costly and time consuming court action, meaning its ability to act as an effective enforcer is severely limited, Which? argues.

Which? Policy and advocacy director Rocio Concha 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.”

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