We are responsible for enforcing European consumer laws that apply specifically to aviation. This includes legislation relating to price transparency, contract terms, passenger rights during flight disruption and access to air travel for passengers with reduced mobility. We also have concurrent powers with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to enforce general consumer law in the aviation sector. This covers airlines, airports, tour operators and travel agents.
Most of the complaints and enquiries that CAA receives from individual consumers are about resolving individual purchasing or travel problems and are handled by the CAA’s Passenger and Complaints Team (PACT). Should you wish to contact the CAA about an organisation that we regulate, but for which you are not seeking to resolve an individual purchasing or travel problem, details of how to complain can be found in our Complaints Policy.
The CAA receives many emails and letters each week from consumers relating to issues that they encounter in the marketplace. Much of this correspondence is similar in content or relates to issues that fall outside of the CAA’s consumer protection role. Further, as a public corporation, the CAA has finite resources and we are not able to, and neither are we under a legal duty to, investigate and respond to individual complaints and enquiries. Rather, we use information about alleged breaches in consumer protection law to gain a better understanding of how the air travel industry is working for consumers and to assist us in prioritising our consumer protection work.
Where appropriate, we may use the information to contact businesses to remind them of their obligations or, in more serious circumstances, we may instigate a more formal investigation. In such situations it is not the CAA’s policy to engage in correspondence with an individual complainant on the progress of the CAA’s action.
We also have concurrent powers with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to enforce general consumer law in the aviation sector. This covers airlines, airports, tour operators and travel agents. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the CMA that sets out how we will work together within the framework of consumer law:
European Commission Guidelines
The European Commission has published guidelines to clarify the existing rules and facilitate their application across the EU.
CAA guidance on the application of consumer law
We have also published prioritisation principles that explain our approach in deciding what is the most important work to do in the areas of consumer protection, competition law and economic regulation.
Regulation (EU) No 1107/2006 as retained (and amended in UK domestic law) under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
The CAA is responsible for compliance and enforcement with the law providing rights to disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility. View the “Interpretative guidelines” on application of the Regulation. The legislation is enacted in the UK through The Civil Aviation (Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility) Regulations 2014.
The CAA has published guidance for airports on setting, publishing and monitoring Quality Standards under the Regulation.
What the legislation covers
The legislation places obligations on airports and airlines to provide access to air travel for PRMs, subject to some safety and security issues.
These include obligations on:
- to provide assistance throughout the passenger journey at the airport
- to set, publish and monitor “quality standards” on service performance
- to train customer facing staff
- to charge airlines for provision of the service
- to provide assistance on board aircraft
- to train customer facing staff
- to provide information to PRMs on any safety or security restrictions which might affect a person's ability to travel
- to transport medical and mobility equipment
Section 85 of the Civil Aviation Act 2012
Under Section 85 of the Civil Aviation Act 2012 airports and airlines are required to “publish information for the benefit” of passengers. The CAA requires airlines and airports to publish key information relevant to passengers with reduced mobility on their websites.
This subject areas for the information have been specified by the CAA and should be presented on a single webpage one click away from the home page of the website or on webpages directly accessible from a single 'landing' webpage one click away from the home page. The information should be presented in a clear and easy to understand way and the design of websites should take into consideration existing international guidelines on website accessibility.
Airport performance reports
We publish annual report on how UK airports have performed in terms of the quality of assistance provided to less mobile passengers.
Guidance on consumer law for airlines
You can visit our guidance on consumer law for airlines page for more information.
The CAA along with the Competition and Markets Authority are responsible for compliance and enforcement with laws which are applicable to the sale and advertising of flights and holidays.
These laws include:
- Air Services Regulation EC Regulation No 1008/2008 (ASR)
- Carrier Identity Regulation EC Regulation No 2111/2005 (CIR)
- Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs)
- The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 (ECR)
What the legislation covers
Businesses should display flight prices clearly and fairly:
- The 'headline' price advertised must include all unavoidable taxes, charges, surcharges and fees - this includes prices on websites, travel brochures and other media,
- When a flight is being purchased, the airline's terms and conditions should be available to consumers,
- Optional extras (e.g. baggage, insurance, seat selection) must be offered on an opt in basis,
- A breakdown of the total price should be shown including base fares, taxes and charges.
Businesses must be clear on which airline will be operating the flight at the start of the booking process. If the operating airline is not known at the time of booking, or the airline changes after the consumer books, the consumers must be informed of the operating airline as soon as it is known.
Businesses must provide clear, accurate information which is easy to understand;
- Information must be not be false, misleading or confusing,
- This relates to the price, sales process, or either party's rights before or after booking e.g. optional extras offered on an opt out basis rather than opt in,
- Consumers must be given all the information they need to make an informed decision and terms and conditions should be clear and easy to understand.
Businesses must act in a professional and diligent way so customers are not disadvantaged or misled, this could include travel agents or airlines not informing passengers of a flight schedule change.
Businesses should include the full registered name and address of the business, VAT number, and their contact details which should include an email address.
In March 2013 the CAA and Office of Fair Trading published joint guidance on the Requirements of Consumer Law Applicable to the Sale and Advertising of Flights and Holidays.
This guidance is aimed at anyone who advertises a flight including travel agents, tour operators, airlines and price comparison websites. A Quick Reference version is also available.
Airlines need to ensure that they comply with the law that prohibits the use of unfair contract terms. A contract term may be considered to be unfair if it creates a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations of the airline and consumer to the detriment of the consumer. If the CAA believes that unfair terms are being used by airlines, it has the power to take enforcement action.
Unfair terms are not enforceable against the consumer, however only a court can decide whether a term is unfair or not.
The law on contract terms is now included in the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
You can also review the Competition and Markets Authority advice on the unfair terms provisions.