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Published on Wednesday, September 16, 2020

CAA must have power to fine airlines, says consumer champion


Consumer champion Which? is calling on the government to urgently grant the Civil Aviation Authority the power to fine airlines for breaking the law.

Currently, the CAA only has the authority to apply to courts for an enforcement order to bring airlines into line.

And Which? found that, as a result, not a single airline has been fined for failing to refund customers for delays or cancellations.

Since 2003 when the CAA was given the power to apply to the courts for an enforcement order, it has only done so once - in 2018 when Ryanair refused to compensate passengers for delays caused by industrial action.

That case has still to be heard and it might not come to court until 2022, according to Which? It said it feared that in the absence of any financial penalties, airlines will 'feel empowered to break the law without fear of sanctions'.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Which? found the 10 biggest airlines operating from the UK were repeatedly breaking the law on refunds for cancellations but the CAA stopped short of applying for any enforcement orders after the airlines promised to improve. However, Which? said it continued to hear from passengers who were still waiting for refunds, despite the airlines' commitments.

As part of its campaign to secure refunds for passengers affected by coronavirus cancellations and to reform the travel industry to prevent a failure of passenger protections, Which? is calling for the regulator's enforcement powers to be 'strengthened and extended'.

"This should include the ability to fine airlines, to enable the CAA to take swift and meaningful action against carriers that have repeatedly disregarded the law and their obligations to passengers," it said.

Which? Travel Editor Rory Boland added: "Without the ability to issue fines or take swift action against airlines, the Civil Aviation Authority has struggled to effectively stand up for the passengers it is there to protect.

"Several airlines already know this, and there's a real risk some have felt empowered to break the law as a result - and without the threat of penalties, they may continue to do so.

"Trust in the travel industry has been battered in recent months, so passengers need a strong regulator they can count on. It's clear serious reforms need to be made to the sector - as a first step, the government must take urgent steps to ensure the CAA has the tools it needs to effectively hold airlines to account."

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    Many airlines around the world are failing now, due to multi govt stuff up with coronavirus. Flights were only cancelled due to govt bans, so maybe the govt should refund. If I was running an airline with virtually no working capital, I would refund one cent. Many airlines have hard assets. Many airlines lease aircraft. They might own a few desks. Nothing wrong with that, except you can't get blood from a stone.

    By Michael Anderson, Thursday, September 17, 2020

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