Over the course of this week, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced its intention to go ahead with previously stated plans to enhance the enforcement powers of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) against breaches of consumer rights by airlines.
Early this year, in 2022, the government’s Department for Transport (DfT) held a consultation surrounding the potential reformation of the aviation consumer policies to protect air passenger rights following the events of the Covid pandemic. A large part of this discussion that took the interest of many in the travel industry was the discussion surrounding the empowerment of the CAA, with plans to give them more authority concerning the conduct of airlines within consumer rights.
Following this previous discussion, the Department for Transport (DfT) already granted enhanced powers to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), allowing them to rule on breaches of consumer law and to impose fines where they see necessary.
The aviation director of the Department for Transport (DfT), Ben Smith, commented on the new move to give the CAA more power at the Airlines 2022 conference in London on Monday the 21st of November. “We want to ensure there is consumer confidence in the aviation sector particularly as we come out of Covid – to ensure consumers have confidence the products they pay for will be delivered,” he said, “There are problems in a small number of areas.”
Richard Moriarty, the chief executive of the CAA, stated, “The CAA needs more powers in the area of consumer redress. It can take us years to get redress against airlines and that does not make sense. Our powers are outdated compared to other regulators.” He went on to argue, “Just bring us into line with the updated powers of others. I don’t see these powers being used often.”
Tim Alderslade, the UK Airlines chief executive, also commented with the suggestion that the industry take a relaxed approach to the move. “I have no worries about a CAA power grab. The CAA dealt excellently with the issues that came up over refunds [during the pandemic].”
Ben Smith complimented the industry response to Covid travel restrictions and the lifting of them and said, “Bringing everything back wasn’t straightforward or easy. There were a range of people struggling in different ways – not just airports, not just airlines and not just ground handlers.
“The second half of the summer felt much better. From the government’s perspective, we saw the industry working closely together to solve the problems.”
Richard Moriarty agreed with this statement and further commented, “There was short notice of the removal of restrictions. The industry had to come back very quickly and there were problems. I’m hoping they were the transitional issues of getting back to normal rather than anything more structural. Let’s just focus on the consumer, on growth and on sustainability.”
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