The Department for Transport (“DfT”) has launched its long-awaited consultation on proposed reforms to consumer law and enforcement in the aviation sector (see here).

These reforms will be of real interest to travel companies, particularly those which look at the interplay between airlines and package holiday organisers. The DfT will look specifically at the flow of refunds between airlines and package holiday organisers, an issue which was brought into sharp focus by the coronavirus pandemic.

We set out below a short overview of some of the key issues under consideration by the DfT. Travel companies wishing to have their say have until 27 March 2022 to do so.

  • Giving better enforcement powers to the regulators to enforce consumer law in the aviation sector. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is currently looking at the question of whether the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should be given enhanced enforcement powers. This would mean the CAA being able to decide whether an airline has breached consumer law and then imposing a fine (potentially up to 10% of global turnover) and consumer redress measures (e.g. compensation) without having to go to Court (see here for a fuller summary). Separately, the DfT will look at whether these measures alone are sufficient, or whether the CAA would benefit from having additional enforcement tools.
  • Making it mandatory for airlines flying to/from the UK to participate in alternative dispute resolution schemes, which would allow consumer grievances to be resolved without the consumer having to incur the time and cost of going to court.
  • Whether EU Regulation 261 (which sets out the rights of passengers in the case of denied boarding, cancellation and long delays) should be changed so that compensation for delayed domestic UK flights is calculated as a percentage of the ticket price (which would most likely result in a reduction in compensation).
  • Whether the length of delay which triggers compensation rights for domestic UK flights should be reduced from the existing threshold of three hours. The DfT is seeking views on the introduction of a sliding scale: 25% of the ticket price for a delay of 1-2 hours; 50% of the ticket price for a delay of 2-3 hours; 100% of the ticket price for a delay of over 3 hours. The DfT is also seeking views on similar rules for flight cancellations and denied boarding.
  • Whether the DfT should clarify, within the terms of EU Regulation 261, the right for package holiday organisers to recoup refunds from airlines where flights (and consequently package holidays) have been cancelled and the package holiday organiser has refunded the customer in full. There is no mention within the consultation of similar rights already provided for within the Package Travel Regulations 2018, which the EU had intended to address this very issue.
  • Improvements to the accessibility of air travel for disabled people and passengers with reduced mobility. Specifically, the DfT identifies concerns as to the limits placed on the amount which may be recovered by passengers from airlines for damage made to wheelchairs and mobility equipment during transit. The DfT is seeking views in this regard and also more generally as to what reforms should be considered to encourage more support of passengers with accessibility needs when travelling by air.
  • How the policies set out in the consultation would affect people who share certain protected characteristics (i.e. age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation). Specifically, whether the proposed policy is likely to affect the protected characteristics positively, negatively or no have effect.


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