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CMA and CAA warn airlines to minimise summer disruption or face legal action as airport disruption continues



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Airlines are being told to minimise disruption to travellers this summer or risk legal action.

Airports are in the midst of their busiest period for around two years as hundreds of thousands of travellers attempt a holiday abroad for the first time since the end of pandemic travel restrictions.

But the travel industry has been plagued with problems since international routes reopened with cancelled flights, lost baggage and chaotic queues at airports all blighting travellers attempts at jetting away from the UK - forcing the government to step in to try and help ease disruption.

Airports and airlines around the world face a busy summer
Airports and airlines around the world face a busy summer

With England now on the cusp of the school summer holidays, the Competition and Markets Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority have sent a joint letter to carriers outlining the concerns they have about current practices and to remind airlines of their legal obligations to get customers on their way this summer.

In a strongly worded warning, the organisations reveal their concerns for people's travel plans if things go awry.

The letter says: "We recognise that some airlines have performed better than others, and we acknowledge and welcome some recent improvements, for example flight cancellations being announced earlier. However, we are concerned that

Flight cancellations have blighted some people's travel plans
Flight cancellations have blighted some people's travel plans

consumers could experience significant harm unless airlines meet their obligations and minimise flight disruptions throughout the summer and beyond."

Overview of concerns

With disruption still continuing at many airports around the globe, and flight cancellations remaining a daily occurrence, the letter sets out the concerns both the CMA and CAA have for travel to and from the UK this summer.

Airlines have been warned to do everything they can to minimise disruption to travellers. Image: Getty Images.
Airlines have been warned to do everything they can to minimise disruption to travellers. Image: Getty Images.

These include:

* Airlines selling more tickets for flights than they reasonably expect to supply

* Failing to warn consumers about the ensuing risk of cancellation when airlines believe they might not be able to meet all their flights they are advertising

* Not always fully satisfying obligations to re-route customers, including with alternative and rival carriers, in the event of cancellations

* Failing to give travellers 'sufficiently clear and upfront information' about their cancellation rights

* And/or failing to provide 'adequate and appropriate support and care' when flights are cancelled or disrupted

Disrupted travellers must have access to help and support says the CAA and CMA warning. Photo: iStock.
Disrupted travellers must have access to help and support says the CAA and CMA warning. Photo: iStock.

When flights are cancelled airlines have a legal duty to offer an alternative option to get customers to their destination - either by using their own flights or if they cannot find a timely alternative, by making a booking with another carrier.

The written warning reminds airlines that all of the proper procedures must be followed - even down to a basic rate phone line being available, where calls are answered in a 'reasonable' amount of time by advisors ready and able to help.

Airports have faced disruption since routes reopened. Photo: iStock.
Airports have faced disruption since routes reopened. Photo: iStock.

And while the two regulators did not mention any airline by name, the letter insists further action will be taken if carriers are caught not following the rules this summer.

It concludes: "The CMA and CAA share consumer protection law enforcement powers in the aviation sector under the Enterprise Act 2002.

"The CAA will continue to monitor airlines’ practices and consumers’ experiences, including by engaging with airlines to ensure they are addressing our concerns. If we receive evidence that consumers continue to experience these serious problems, the CAA, supported by the CMA, will consider further action, including enforcement."