The UK government has published new proposals today (27 June) that will mean passengers are better protected when journeys go wrong.

Under the plans, stronger enforcement powers for the regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and access to faster and cheaper dispute resolution will lead to improved standards for all passengers on flights operating to and from the UK, increasing passenger confidence and boosting the aviation sector.

Following concerning reports of disabled passengers having their wheelchairs damaged, the measures will mean they can get full and fair compensation for damage caused on UK domestic flights. Airlines will also be encouraged to waive this cap for international flights. At present airlines are not required to cover the full cost of repairs, even if the equipment is damaged while in their care.

Ground handlers will also be offered new training by the Department for Transport to make sure mobility equipment is being handled properly, aiming to avoid these incidents altogether.

Enhanced rights for passengers

Paul Smith, Joint-Interim Chief Executive at the UK CAA, commented, “We welcome the announcement from government today to enhance the rights of air passengers, alongside strengthening the enforcement powers of the Civil Aviation Authority and making ADR mandatory. We have long called for a stronger enforcement toolkit to bring us in line with other regulators. The plans announced today achieve this and will help ensure that the Civil Aviation Authority is better equipped to hold industry to account in meeting their obligations to passengers.”

The proposals form the Government’s response to its aviation consumer policy reform consultation, published in January 2022, and aim to improve the UK’s standards for air passenger travel.

Dispute resolution

Airlines will be required to be a member of an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body, giving consumers a way to escalate certain complaints that cannot be settled between them and the airline without the need to go to court.

Currently, there are two ADR providers in the UK and airlines can join voluntarily. Under the new proposals, all airlines flying to, from and within the UK, would have to join, giving customers access to this dispute route regardless of who they fly with. This could help people who are struggling to get refunds when they are entitled to them.

The measures also aim to strengthen the UK regulator’s powers to further protect both consumers’ and airlines’ interests. As the UK’s aviation regulator, the CAA works to ensure consumers are protected and treated fairly. Under the new plans, it would have increased powers to enforce consumer protection law, for example issuing fines for breaches, where appropriate. ​

Following feedback received during the consultation, the Government will undertake further work on how compensation for passengers facing disruption from cancellations and delays.