Travel companies push Government to give watchdog power to fine airlines

Travel companies and a consumer group are urging the Prime Minister to take “decisive action on behalf of British holidaymakers” by enabling the aviation regulator to fine airlines.

In a joint letter to Rishi Sunak, they called for the King’s Speech on November 7 to include a Bill focused on strengthening the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) ability to enforce breaches of consumer rules.

Among the signatories were holiday companies loveholidays, On the Beach, Riviera Travel and Thomas Cook, consumer group Which? and travel business organisations the Association of Independent Tour Operators and the Advantage Travel Partnership.

Thousands of flights to and from UK airports have been cancelled this summer due to issues such as air traffic control restrictions and wildfires on Rhodes and other Greek islands.

Airlines’ legal responsibilities

Many affected holidaymakers claim airlines have ignored their legal responsibilities during the disruption, which can include booking customers a ticket with a rival airline so they reach their destination as quickly as possible, and providing meals and overnight accommodation.

The letter to Mr Sunak stated: “As a coalition of consumer advocates and travel companies, we urge you to show your support for British holidaymakers affected by this summer’s air travel disruption by agreeing to strengthen the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) enforcement powers through this autumn’s King’s Speech.

“This summer has seen the all too familiar sight of holidaymakers’ plans ruined by air travel disruption; this time through UK and European strike action, thousands of summer flight cancellations, and the terrible environmental impact of wildfires.

“While some of these issues are outside of airlines’ control, they are routinely failing what’s in their control: to uphold their customers’ legal rights to rerouting and refunds, and provide clear and timely passenger information.”

Pushing the Government

In July, the Department for Transport said in its response to a consultation that the CAA will be given the power to fine airlines, but it gave no timescale for when legislation will be introduced.

The CAA’s joint-interim chief executive, Paul Smith, said: “We have long called for a stronger enforcement toolkit to bring us in line with other UK regulators.

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

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