Not a single airline is fined in 20 years despite numerous cases of ‘unlawful behaviour’ due to a regulatory failure
- Consumer champion Which? said the CAA ‘should be doing more’
Not a single airline has been fined due to a regulatory failure in the past 20 years – despite numerous cases of ‘unlawful’ behaviour.
The scandal was highlighted by Which? as the lack of action was cited as evidence of a massive failure of the customer protection regime.
The consumer champion said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ‘should be doing more’ to pursue court action against law-breaking carriers, although it admitted that the agency ‘urgently needs stronger enforcement powers’.
Bosses at the CAA have had the capacity to apply to courts for enforcement orders against airlines since June 2003, but the only time they have used this power against a major carrier was in 2018.
On that occasion, Ryanair escaped punishment after it agreed to pay passengers compensation for flights cancelled during a strike by pilots.
Ryanair escaped punishment after it agreed to pay passengers compensation for flights cancelled during a strike by pilots (Stock Photo)
Earlier this month, British Airways was fined 1.1 million US dollars (£900,000) in the US over delayed refunds for flights cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic (Stock Photo)
Earlier this month, British Airways was fined 1.1 million US dollars (£900,000) in the US over delayed refunds for flights cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic. But Which? said the the lack of similar action in the UK – where many more passengers suffered delays to pay-outs from the airline – is ‘an embarrassing indictment of weak passenger protections’.
Airlines operating in the UK are required to issue refunds for cancelled flights within seven days, but many consumers were forced to wait several months at the height of the virus crisis.
Other nations whose regulators have fined airlines in recent years include Italy, Germany and Greece.
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced this week that it plans to give the CAA the power to fine airlines for breaches of consumer laws.
Which? called for the legislation to be included later this year in the King’s Speech, which would demonstrate the Government’s intention to implement the change during the next parliamentary session.
Last night Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: ‘The US government fining Britain’s flag carrier when our own authorities are powerless to do the same makes a mockery of aviation regulation in the UK, which has been failing travellers for 20 years.
‘Passengers have repeatedly endured unfair and, in some cases, unlawful treatment by some airlines in recent years and meaningful action is long past due.
‘The Government must act without delay and legislate to grant the CAA the powers it needs to issue hefty fines, and hold airlines to account when they break the law.
‘Until it does so, UK travellers’ rights will be worth no more than the paper they are written on.’
CAA head of consumer Anna Bowles said: ‘We have regularly asked for stronger consumer enforcement powers, including the ability to impose fines on airlines.
‘This would allow us to take faster action when appropriate and bring our powers in line with other sectoral regulators.’
BA said: ‘Where a customer’s flight is cancelled, we always offer options including a full refund, rerouting or rebooking onto another service, including with other airlines. We always meet our legal obligations.’
Ryanair said: ‘Any Ryanair customers who are entitled to compensation due to staff strikes in 2018 – and who applied directly to Ryanair for compensation – have received compensation directly from Ryanair in line with EU261.’
Analysis found more than 24,000 complaints about airlines relating to compensation were made to the CAA and the UK’s two alternative dispute resolution bodies in 2020.