CAA Warns Over Instances Of Unacceptable Treatment Of Passengers During Recent Snow Disruption

Date: 23 December 2010

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has identified a number of instances where airlines have not met their obligations to passengers during recent snow disruption and is taking action to ensure that any unacceptable practices are addressed.

Five days into the disruption, some airlines are clearly making real efforts to look after their passengers in difficult circumstances and we commend them for their efforts. However, others are failing to clearly explain EU denied boarding regulations (EU 261/2004) to passengers, and may even be misleading their customers about their rights. The regulations stipulate that during periods of disruption, airlines offer refreshments and, where appropriate, put passengers up in hotels (See notes to editors for more information on passenger rights).

The CAA has today written to a number of airlines, both UK-based and overseas based, to make clear that their behaviour is unacceptable and is today repeating its advice that if travellers have had to make their own arrangements for hotels and meals during the disruption, they should keep all their receipts and make a claim for the re-imbursement of reasonable expenses from the airline concerned as soon as possible.

Deirdre Hutton, CAA Chair said: "The European Union has put in place regulations to protect people in situations such as this, which not only guarantees people will be looked after, but requires airlines to let people know what their rights are. This has not been happening in all cases and it is important that passengers are not being misled. The fact that some airlines are making real efforts to look after their passengers shows that it can be done and there is no excuse for providing misleading information on what passengers are entitled to.

"We welcome the Government's comments today that they are prioritising revamping the CAA's regulatory framework so we would be able to introduce provisions to encourage major airports to prepare better for bad weather. In the meantime though our focus will be on making sure passengers get the protection they deserve."

For more media information please contact Nic Stevenson on 020 7453 6024.

Notes to editors

1. More information about people’s rights is available from the CAA website here: www.caa.co.uk

2. Passengers’ Rights
Passengers are covered by the European Union Denied Boarding and Cancellation Regulations. This entitles them to care and assistance including the right to:
- reimbursement within seven days of the full cost of the ticket; or,
- re-routing to their final destination at the earliest opportunity; or,
- re-routing at a later date of their convenience.

If they are abroad and choose to be re-routed to their final destination on the next available flight, they are also entitled to:
- meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to their waiting time;
- hotel accommodation where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary;
- two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or emails.

Passengers should contact their airline or check the airline website for advice on re-organised flight details and arrangements for accommodation, meals etc. If they are unable to obtain advice from the airline, passengers may need to make their own arrangements and are advised to keep receipts of any expenses they intend to claim from their airline. These expenses should be reasonable within the context of the nature of the disruption and fall within the rights as set out above.

They are not entitled to additional financial compensation, as would be the case if the cause of the disruption were the responsibility of the airline

Passenger rights apply to all airlines if the flight was due to depart from a European airport and the disruption to your flight occurred in Europe. In addition if the flight was with a European airline passenger rights also cover flights from an airport outside Europe to a European airport.
If a flight is not covered by the Regulation passengers should check their airline’s terms and conditions.

Most airlines will provide a refund or an alternative flight and some may also provide assistance during the disruption. Passengers should also check their travel insurance as this may cover them for the cost of accommodation, meals etc.

3. Complaints:
If people have complaints about their treatment, in the first instance they should contact the airline concerned to resolve a problem or complaint. If they are unhappy with the airline’s response, they should contact the Air Transport Users Council (AUC). The European Consumer Centre Network, should be contacted when complaints concern European flights booked and operated outside the UK.

If your flights were part of a holiday package, you should contact your tour operator. If you are unhappy with the tour operator’s response, you should contact: Consumer Direct.

4. The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy from an economic standpoint.

5. The CAA has contacted the major UK airports, in order to understand better whether there are lessons to be learnt from the recent disruption.