20 MAY 2019


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Article from BTNews 20 MAY 2019

COMMENT: A passenger charter

With the 23 June cut off date for submissions regarding  the government’s proposed new Passenger Charter fast approaching  Airlines UK Policy Seminar last week at the London offices of heavyweight international law firm Clyde & Co gave an indication of just what might be involved. It’s complicated, and that never makes resolution easy.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) CEO Richard Moriarty set the tone by saying the run-up to the charter was an opportunity for the industry, the regulator and the government to show how they could work together “for the good of the people who ultimately sustain the whole sector – the passengers”.

He went on: “The underlying economics of the sector are positive. Overall passenger numbers are holding up, load factors are increasing and new routes are being established. UK airports handled 292m passengers in 2018, up 3% on 2017.”

Despite the current global political and economic uncertainty and fierce competition for passengers and a fight to sustain yields, UK airlines on the whole were braced for the challenges but could not be complacent.

“You have a good opportunity here,” Moriarty told his audience. “Government is clear it wants a charter but the detail of this is to be worked through and will no doubt be informed by views of interested parties like airlines and consumer representatives.

“I would encourage you to be on the front foot, to be bold and to develop ideas for this charter that show that you have recognised the challenge set by government … as always with government and regulatory policy, don’t wait for it to be done to you.”

Airlines4Europe managing director Thomas Reynaert was concerned issues directly affecting European travellers should be brought into the mix, chief among them the full realisation of the Single Market for Aviation, which he said was “one of the major achievements of the EU”.

He added: “While the liberalisation of the airline industry has provided consumers with more destinations and lower fares, a lot remains to be done when it comes to monopoly providers, such as airports and ANSPs, for Europeans to fully reap the benefits of the Single Market.”

Taxes and air traffic delays were other matters that had to be addressed in the run-upto the charter, Reynaert suggested. He noted aviation taxes were “a very hot topic”, with politicians in the Netherlands, Belgium and other EU countries suggesting proposals for national or even EU-wide environmental taxes.

However, Reynaert added: “We believe such taxes would ultimately prove ineffective at reducing CO2 emissions and would simply make flying more expensive for all types of travellers, particularly students and families.”

Instead, he said, the EU needed a coherent and supportive policy framework on taxes and the environment. Airlines were therefore asking the EU to recognise that neither national aviation taxes nor an EU-wide aviation tax would achieve its purpose but would come at great socio-economic costs for European citizens.

Turning to the UK’s air passenger duty (APD), he said it went without saying this continued its reign as the highest aviation tax in Europe and the world. Cutting ADP would bring significant benefits to the UK economy while directly benefiting passengers with lower fares, he said.

Another cause for concern was air traffic delays and in addition to taxes, A4E would continue to campaign for more efficient European airspace, including the implementation of the Single European Sky.

“There are far too many delays and too much hassle for our passengers,” Reynaert said. “Heading into the peak summer period, this trend is deeply concerning for airlines as it has a severe, direct impact on our passengers”

The third of the opening speakers was Jenny Willott, former Liberal MP for Cardiff Central  and Chair of the independent CAA Consumer Panel.  She outlined its remit, essentially acting as a “critical friend” to the CAA.

It would be helpful, she said, if the charter laid out passengers’ rights in one place, with clear guidance about how to enforce their rights.

It would also need to set out industry best practice so passengers could see clearly what the best were doing. This would help to raise standards and ensure passengers were better informed when making choices about where to fly from and with whom.

The Panel also believed strongly the charter needed to be really clear which measures were legal rights and which were best practice.

Willott added: “The Panel will be monitoring the development of the charter closely and monitoring whether or not improvements have been delivered.

“The Green Paper also says that if voluntary measures do not work, legislation may be necessary, and the Panel will not be shy in calling for this if we believe it is necessary.

"We believe that the information powers of the CAA need to be put on a stronger statutory basis, to support the implementation of the charter, and there may well be other areas where the CAA needs more powers to protect consumers’ interests.”

Airlines UK represents all the key British carriers.  They do not agree on everything but Richard Moriarty summed it up very neatly in his speech. "Ultimately passengers are best served by a vibrant, innovative and competitive airline sector, but one that is also profitable and sustainable".  BTN endorces that view.

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All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

mike carrivick, Uk

Any such charter, with a focus on passengers, should also set out their responsibilities. This should include passenger behaviour in general, to staff as well as other passengers, turning up st gate on time or losing right to board without any compensation, plus no disruptive behaviours, keeping children under control etc. Otherwise, yet again, the charter is just another piece of imposed responsibility on an industry already over-regulated.