UK government criticised over ‘failure’ to give CAA greater enforcement powers

posted on 7th November 2023 by William Hallowell
UK government criticised over failure to give CAA greater enforcement powers

The UK government has been criticised today over its “failure” to legislate to give the Civil Aviation Authority more powers to punish airlines that break the law.

Today was the State Opening of the UK parliament, in which King Charles outlined the government’s legislative agenda for the next 12 months.

Campaigners have been calling on the government for several months to give the aviation regulator greater powers of enforcement against airlines found to be flouting the rules by disregarding passenger rights.

But consumer champion Which? has criticised the government for failing to address an issue it says “urgently need[s] reforms”.

Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at Which?, said: “For too long consumers have suffered as a result of airlines’ poor behaviour going all but unchecked, with airlines showing a blatant disregard for passenger rights during periods of disruption, and making it difficult to compare ticket prices by adding fees for add-ons like seat selection late in the buying process.

“While it’s encouraging to see that the government is setting out legislation to tackle unfair pricing practices, it is disappointing that the prime minister has failed to combat routine lawbreaking from airlines that often leaves passengers feeling abandoned and out of pocket.

“This failure to give the CAA the fining powers it needs is a kick in the teeth for passengers, who have suffered for years at the hands of airlines emboldened to ignore their rights to refunds, rerouting and compensation, safe in the knowledge that their poor practices will go unpunished.

“Which? has led the charge for these urgently needed reforms, and this inaction from the prime minister is all the more disappointing given the widespread support for change from the travel industry, passengers, the Department for Transport and the regulator itself.

“It is essential that any future government wastes no time in delivering this much needed reform, and finally shows airlines that they will be held to account when they break the rules.”

The news comes as online travel agencies (OTAs) have also been engaged in a bitter feud with low cost carriers over what they dub “aggressive tactics” to remove consumer choice from the market. They too have been calling for greater regulatory intervention into airlines’ practices.

In response, the Department of Transport said it committed to ensuring passengers receive the best possible service when they travel by air, which is why it updated the Air Passenger Travel Guide so passengers know their rights.

It added that it will legislate when parliamentary time allows to give the CAA additional administrative powers to enforce consumer rights, remove the compensation cap for damaged wheelchairs on domestic UK flights and to mandate membership to an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution body for all airlines operating to, from and within the UK.

Image credit: Daily Mirror (screengrab)