Passenger Disruption

Snow disruption and the passenger experience

December 2010 was the coldest December in the UK since records began according to the Met Office, with heavy snowfall during late November and December causing significant disruption to air transport, notably in the South East and in Scotland. This inconvenienced large numbers of passengers and caused substantial discomfort for many. The CAA is gathering information and views on the issues faced by passengers during the disrupted period directly through a passenger survey and focus groups as well as sourcing information from airports, airlines and ground handlers. The objective of this work is not to attribute blame, but to identify good practice and to set out the steps that can be taken by the aviation industry and the CAA to improve passengers’ experiences at airports during any future disruption, working with all of the parties that are responsible for the service delivery at airports.

On 17 March 2011, the CAA facilitated a round table discussion with industry, where the emerging themes and issues from the CAA’s work to date was presented and discussed. The event was led by Iain Osborne, Group Director of Regulatory Policy, and facilitated by an Industry Panel of experts drawn from airports, airlines, and ground handlers. View the presentation.

On 3 August 2011, the CAA published its final report - ‘Aviation’s Response to Major Disruption’ – and announced that it had agreed with the Airport Operators Association (AOA) and the British Air Transport Association (BATA) that they will establish a Major Disruption Policy Development Group.  This group will be industry led and will facilitate performance improvements in the three areas identified by the CAA, and will be responsible for identifying and sharing best practice and examples of ‘best in class’ performance for dealing with major disruption. The terms of reference of this group can be found in Annex D of the CAA’s final report.

The CAA will conduct a process of review during October 2011 to identify the performance improvements made, and those planned to be made, by airports and airlines and to determine how well the industry is placed to deal with future events that can lead to major disruption.

Download or read the final report.

The CAA has also published the results of the passenger focus groups, conducted by SHM for the CAA.  Read the SHM Report

The CAA wrote an open letter to industry following its review of the performance improvements made by industry to deal with future incidents of major disruption.

This work is separate from the Airport Performance Facilitation Group chaired by the CAA, which is overseeing the implementation by industry of a package of initiatives to improve punctuality, resilience and delay at UK airports based on a framework recommended by the South-East Airports Taskforce.  More information about the APFG.

One of the major themes of the CAA's work to date on major disruption is in relation to avoiding stranding passengers at airports.  The CAA takes the view that, in the event of a flight cancellation or very long delay, most passengers would rather be at home than waiting in the airport, not least because it can sometimes be a major challenge for airlines and airports to ensure that passengers stranded at airports are properly looked after, especially during periods of mass disruption.  In this open letter to the industry, the CAA has set out its expectations for how your operators, travel agents, other intermediaries and airlines should coordinate their approach to ensuring that, in the event of disruption, passengers are contacted swiftly and provided with information on the disruption, their travel options, and their legal rights.  The open letter can be found here.