• We have identified five strategic priorities that are key to the delivery of our vision for the next five years. More detail on these priorities is set out below. 

  • We will target regulation where risk is highest and be adaptable to the ever-changing risk picture. We will act to develop confidence that members of the aviation community are managing their own risks effectively.

    The primary obligation to fly safely and to treat passengers well rests on the companies and people who are regulated, not on the regulator. A purely compliance-based approach to regulation blurs that accountability, as if it were enough just to comply with the rules.

    The CAA's approach is to facilitate companies and people managing the risks they are accountable for. We can often help people to find better ways to manage their risks. And we work in partnership, across sectors to share learning where we can.

    This approach poses new challenges for the CAA. We require better information about the ever-changing risk picture: pooling the information we already have, using it more actively, seeking new sources of information. We will be more nimble so we can move resources to address emerging risk. We will build the capabilities of our people so they can spot risks, not just non-compliance; and act as advisors, not simply “box tickers”.

    The CAA will also respond quickly to emerging risks, including targeting the small number of people who are not serious about meeting the standards required in UK aviation.

    In conducting our regulatory roles, the CAA aims to allocate resources according to our understanding of the risks we manage within them; and to act in ways that are proportionate to the significance of those risks and that are reflective of organisational tolerance of residual risk. This means that we will continue to monitor the extent to which the burdens we impose are justified by the outcomes they achieve and will take action when they do not.

    Where we are responsible for setting regulation, we will be determined to ensure that safety remains our number one priority and will step in to regulate where we can. Consistent with better regulation principles, we will also look for opportunities to improve our approaches and will consider deregulation or delegation of regulation to the aviation community where appropriate, only retaining regulation when justified and always doing so proportionately.

    Where regulation is set at the international level, such as in Europe, or where risks to our stakeholders arise outside the UK, we will apply our resources where we can have a significant and beneficial effect. We will do this either through influencing rule-making and safety strategies at an international level, or by using our regulatory and commercial teams to partner bilaterally with other States on specific areas of mutual concern.

    Our strategic areas (safety, security, the environment and choice, value and fair treatment) are driven by a number of key strategies and a common set of outcomes, aligning with our vision and purpose. Further information on these strategies can be found in the Supplementary Key Strategies document.

    Risk based regulation

    Regulatory activities and resources are focused on the areas of highest risk.

    Strategic area Key strategy Strategic outcomes (Examples)
    Safety Implement performance-based regulation Performance-based regulation, through standardisation of processes and tools and the development of key management information, delivers efficiency and productivity benefits
      Better safety intelligence Data and information sharing between regulators and stakeholders enriches the total risk picture and knowledge in order to target safety risk management effectively
    Security Providing regulatory expertise CAA expertise allows the Department for Transport (DfT) to make informed, evidence-based decisions in developing aviation security policy
      Compliance monitoring Instances of non-compliance with EU and UK security requirements by airports, air carriers, cargo operators and in-flight suppliers are swiftly detected and rectified
      Security Management Systems (SeMS) Air transport operators adopt an effective SeMS, bringing additional assurance that all of the risks to their operations have been identified and addressed
    Choice, value and fair treatment Regulating to get the most from infrastructure The CAA is well placed to prevent significant harm to consumers from anti-competitive behaviour in the (largely) liberalised airports market
      Modernising holiday protection Well-run holiday companies enjoy a lower regulatory burden than poorly-run competitors
      Securing consumer redress and enforcement The rights and obligations of consumers and businesses arising under standard contract terms will be fair and balanced and consumers will not be penalised by unfair contract terms

    Airlines compete on price and service and consumers drive improvement by making informed choices between different providers. The CAA will press for passengers to have the information they want to make fully informed buying decisions. When things do go wrong, redress should be rapid and easy to use.

    The UK aviation sector is, in the main, competitive: most passengers can choose from multiple airports and a range of services, and airlines compete on price. Everyone benefits from engaged and informed consumers being at the heart of the competitive process.

    However, not everyone just wants the cheapest flight. It is hard for passengers to know which is, say, the most punctual or reliable service on a route, or the one with lowest carbon emissions. Publishing information to help passengers choose will remain a priority for the CAA, as well as promoting effective competition.

    The CAA will be particularly alert to passengers with disabilities or special needs being well served in the market.

    When things do go wrong, passengers want rapid and user-friendly redress. Aviation attracts frequent negative media attention for standards of complaint handling - particularly in connection with compensation for delay or cancellation. The CAA hopes, over the plan period, to see an ombudsman-style arrangement (called Alternative Dispute Resolution) in place offering quality service to passengers and good incentives for airlines to settle complaints correctly but informally.

    Consumers are protected from air holiday business insolvency under the CAA's Air Travel Organiser's Licence scheme (ATOL) but are rarely affected by such failures. Empowering consumers within this context means raising their awareness of when they are protected and making sure that they know what to do when things go wrong. We will continue to promote ATOL and the ATOL Certificate with those aims in mind.

    The statutory framework for aviation consumer rights has sometimes seemed unbalanced in recent years, with particular attention given to the denied boarding rules. The CAA will continue to seek opportunities to achieve a balanced and pro-consumer regulatory framework.

    Our strategic areas (safety, security, the environment and choice, value and fair treatment) are driven by a number of key strategies and a common set of outcomes, aligning with our vision and purpose. Further information on these strategies can be found in the Supplementary Key Strategies document.

    Empowering consumers

    Consumers are well informed so that they can get the best outcomes.

    Strategic area Key strategy Strategic outcomes (Examples)
    Safety Better safety intelligence Consumers have appropriate access to safety data to assist in making purchasing decisions
    Choice value and fair treatment Empowering consumers through information Disabled passengers and those with mobility restrictions, including non-visible conditions, know that a good standard of help and assistance is available at the airport and on board and are confident to fly
      Empowering consumers through information Passengers have accurate information about the things that are important to them at the right time
      Securing consumer redress and enforcement All consumers have access to alternative dispute resolution if they are unable to resolve a dispute directly with an aviation business
    Environment Aiding performance through information Residents and consumers have access to comprehensive information about aviation noise, how it is interpreted and measured, the responsibilities of the CAA and the aviation community, and how they can engage in local and national decisions
      Generating new data for decision-makers The CAA develops up-to-date research and evidence to inform relevant stakeholders and the CAA's own regulatory activities

    The CAA will challenge airports and airlines to deliver the best possible service for passengers with the available infrastructure. Whatever decisions are taken about an additional runway, the South East of England will remain short of runway capacity throughout the plan period. Forecasts also show that our airspace will become increasingly congested to the point of saturation in particular areas and during specific periods in the years out to 2030 and beyond. Progress on airspace change will require decisions to take account of the interests of local residents, other airspace users, passengers and the country as a whole.

    The CAA has been clear in its advice to policy-makers: passengers and the public are already suffering from shortage of airport capacity, and this will get worse - fewer routes than the public wants, fewer flights than there is demand for, more delay, higher prices, more fragile operations, reduced carbon efficiency, more pressure to fly at night or to disrupt planned noise relief.

    The CAA has provided extensive support to the Airports Commission and will continue to work closely with Government as it develops its approach to airport expansion. While the merits of any new airport capacity are ultimately for Government to decide upon, where infrastructure is considered necessary, we will press for a fair deal for consumers that delivers value for money. This means consulting extensively on any proposals so that decisions take account of the views of a wide range of stakeholders, and working with airport owners to facilitate timely delivery of new capacity. In regulating the economics of any new capacity, our broad aim will be that the risks and costs are carried appropriately by those who stand to benefit the most. The CAA has long worked to regulate only where there is market power; this will remain important as we develop regulatory arrangements for new capacity.

    Airspace reform is an essential part of our drive to deliver infrastructure optimisation and one that offers enormous opportunities. The plan period will see an unprecedented amount of changes to the way that airspace is structured, consistent with the UK Future Airspace Strategy. Current structures are outdated. Indeed, some date back more than 50 years, meaning renewal is essential if we are to get aviation to work better. Capturing the benefits of technological change, we can reduce fuel usage and carbon emissions, cut wasted time and improve punctuality. Such changes may impact on residents as well as passengers and the wider aviation community. The high-level policy objectives for how these airspace changes are set by Government, but we are responsible for making decisions about airspace changes and setting the process by which those wanting to change airspace must propose designs and consult with relevant stakeholders before submitting a request for a decision. We understand the importance of ensuring a robust process and are committed to listening to stakeholder views on how the process can be improved, including consulting on refinements that enable us to fulfil our statutory role while better meeting the expectations of our stakeholders. The CAA will seek at all times to ensure that the decision-making process for airspace changes is strong and transparent, employs evidence as appropriate and involves consultation with all affected groups to ensure a fair balancing of rights, responsibilities and interests. We also recognise that there may be more we can do to address noise within the policy framework set by Government. To check that we are doing what we can to limit and where possible reduce the nuisance caused to communities affected by noise, we will regularly review our overall approach including the role played by us in balancing noise reduction against other objectives.

    It will take at least a decade to deliver new capacity, so whatever happens, aviation must work better by getting the most out of the infrastructure we already have. We already have some of the busiest and most productive airports in the world with challenges for maintaining resilience. We are committed to thinking creatively about how we as a regulator can intervene to help use existing capacity in a way which meets stakeholders' expectations. Competition throughout the supply chain can go a long way to delivering this, and we will use our competition and other powers to prevent unfair discrimination and other abuses. As with our work on new capacity, we will have to balance what matters to different stakeholders, ensuring that there is a framework for dialogue between users and making sure that the full range of views is consulted upon.

    The ultimate aim is to make aviation work better now and in the future. We will do this by creating conditions that help airports and other infrastructure providers respond to users' expectations, by delivering valued and cost-effective services that are resilient to the challenges that they can expect to face.

    Our strategic areas (safety, security, the environment and choice, value and fair treatment) are driven by a number of key strategies and a common set of outcomes, aligning with our vision and purpose. Further information on these strategies can be found in the Supplementary Key Strategies document.

    Infrastructure optimisation

    The aviation system performs well within a capacity constrained environment.

    Strategic area Key strategy Strategic outcomes (Examples)
    Safety Keeping pace with change The UK has a more flexible and integrated airspace system aligned with European developments and technological changes, which improves safety, capacity and efficiency and balances the requirements of all airspace users
    Choice value and fair treatment Regulating to get the most out of infrastructure Consumers benefit from on-time departures and arrivals at regulated airports
      Regulating to get the most out of infrastructure New airport capacity will be delivered on time and in a way that minimises disruption and provides value-for-money to the consumer
      Regulating to get the most out of infrastructure Airports and providers of on-airport services (e.g. for parking or air traffic services) compete fairly and effectively, resulting in satisfaction and value-for-money for the consumer
    Environment Helping us reach the right decisions The CAA makes balanced regulatory decisions on airspace and other areas of responsibility based on environmental evidence alongside other priorities, in accordance with Government policy
      Generating new data for decision-makers The CAA develops up-to-date research and evidence to inform relevant stakeholders and the CAA's own regulatory activities
        The CAA engages the aviation community effectively to assess and share information about how they are working to reduce environmental impacts

    Some of the people we deal with have chosen us as partners, others have no choice. But it should not make a difference. We plan to be so easy to deal with that companies will choose us as regulator or service provider and businesses and regulators around the world will choose to work with us, even though they do not have to.

    The CAA aims to be easy to transact with, with more and more services delivered online. Building on the successes so far of our Shared Service Centre, we aim to consolidate a culture of service excellence. Even where we take action to compel regulated companies to do what is needed under the law, we will aim to be straightforward and easy to deal with.

    Our strategic areas (safety, security, the environment and choice, value and fair treatment) are driven by a number of key strategies and a common set of outcomes, aligning with our vision and purpose. Further information on these strategies can be found in the Supplementary Key Strategies document.

    Service excellence

    We provide a high quality service to our stakeholders, particularly where they have multiple transactional dealings with us.

    Strategic area Key strategy Strategic outcomes (Examples)
    Safety Implement performance-based regulation Performance-based regulation, through standardisation of processes and tools and the development of key management information delivers efficiency and productivity benefits
      International regulatory relationships CAA is agile and flexible, and is evolving to remain a fully capable National Aviation Authority within the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) system
    Security Providing regulatory expertise Entities are clear about the aviation security requirements and receive robust, evidence-based judgements in response to their requests for alleviations and derogations
    Choice, value and fair treatment Modernising holiday protection Moving licence and permit applications online provides us with better information which allows market mechanisms to work more efficiently to the benefit of consumers

    The CAA's vision is that passengers and the public benefit from a world-class aviation sector. Effective regulation helps to keep the aviation sector at the global cutting-edge. We therefore plan to support the aviation community industry in adjusting to the growing challenges of modern aviation from new business models or from new technology.

    We want to ensure that we do not act as a barrier to technological developments which have the potential to deliver significant benefits, including strengthening the already high standards of safety that consumers and the public expect.

    Innovation in technology has been a hallmark of aviation; engineering advances mean that each generation of aircraft has been cleaner, quieter, safer and more comfortable than the last. Consumers have also benefited from advances in information technology that allow them to compare and purchase services at the click of a mouse.

    These changes have benefited the consumer and, where we can have an influence, we plan to regulate in such a way that we do not impede technological change unless justified. Where possible, we will seek to ensure that our regulatory focus is on outcomes rather than on inputs, freeing up those we regulate to innovate.

    In supporting innovation, as in other areas of our work, we will apply our risk principles and only involve ourselves to the extent that it is within our remit or influence. We will also give much greater weight to safety and security outcomes than to others, such as consumer choice and value, reflecting our duties and the fundamental importance of these areas to our stakeholders.

    We also have an ambition to support and facilitate Government's innovation strategies and initiatives in areas beyond aviation where we can make a beneficial contribution (for example, around our work to change the way that radar works to free up radio spectrum for other uses).

    Our strategic areas (safety, security, the environment and choice, value and fair treatment) are driven by a number of key strategies and a common set of outcomes, aligning with our vision and purpose. Further information on these strategies can be found in the Supplementary Key Strategies document.

    Technological innovation

    We facilitate technological developments that deliver benefits to the consumer.

    Strategic area Key strategy Strategic outcomes (Examples)
    Safety Keeping pace with change The CAA proactively develops regulatory frameworks to enable government and other innovation strategies