More air passengers on UK domestic flights can receive compensation for delays and have easier access to resolve claims under government proposals announced Monday.
Passengers would be entitled to a partial refund of their fare after a delay of one hour instead of the current minimum of three hours – increasing to 50% after two hours and a full refund after waiting three hours.
However, the system could see that many people receive less money than before. Under EU regulations, which Britain has retained after Brexit, passengers are entitled to a payout of at least £220 after a three-hour delay.
The Transport Ministry said the new model, based on how rail and ferry companies compensate for delays, would be a significant shift and fairer.
Budget airlines have argued that compensation levels are often higher than the fare. Airlines often do not pay compensation when delays are deemed beyond their control, for example due to extreme weather, security warnings or air traffic strikes.
The government can also force all airlines to participate in the airline industry’s alternative dispute resolution process [ADR] scheme, which allows passengers to escalate complaints if they believe they have not been settled, without taking legal action.
Currently, membership is voluntary. Ryanair ended the scheme in 2019.
The UK’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, would also be given more powers to enforce consumer protection laws and directly fine airlines for infringements.
Richard Moriarty, the CEO of the CAA, said the consultation was “a clear indication of the need to strengthen our enforcement powers and align ourselves with other regulators.”
Airlines may also be required to pay full compensation to wheelchair or scooter users for any damage to their device during the flight. Current liability under the Montreal Convention is capped at around £1,200, well below the potential cost of repair or replacement.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the proposals were “intended to strengthen consumer protections and airline rights” and would “help build a reliable, reputable industry”.
Airlines UK, which represents a wide range of airlines, including regional and domestic airlines, said it “looks forward to a response to the talks [and] the ultimate recovery of the sector from Covid”.
In sign of the airline industry’s revival, easyJet said it expects 1,000 cadet pilots over the next five years and has relaunched its training program. The airline must focus on attracting diverse candidates – an advertising campaign featuring a parent, a former gymnast and a DJ who now work as easyJet pilots.
Only about 6% of pilots worldwide are female, although easyJet has doubled the number of female pilots in its ranks since it began a school recruitment campaign in 2015.
Johan Lundgren, the airline’s CEO, said: “While we have made progress, there is still work to be done. Increasing diversity in all its forms in the cockpit is a long-term focus for easyJet and so we will continue to ensure that we lead the industry in this area.”
Both easyJet and British Airways are also seeking thousands of cabin crew for the summer of 2022. EasyJet said in November it would need around 1,500 seasonal staff. BA said in October it would try to re-hire former staff as it ramps up operations for a new Gatwick subsidiary, after laying off thousands of crew members at the start of the pandemic.