30 AUGUST 2010


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Article from BTNews 30 AUGUST 2010

COMMENT: Air Transport Users Council

It seems to AERBT that one of the prime objectives of any government is to change the name and even objectives of established civil service organisations.  They will tell us it is in the name of efficiency, transparency and cost saving, although the general consensus of the public is that it is only to confuse.  Oftel became Ofcom and needed a design team for new notepaper.  Why?

The good news is that the AUC, Air Transport Users Council, which was in danger of being swallowed up by another quango, Passenger Focus, looks like it has been saved.  Under the previous administration the idea was to move the AUC into that (seemingly silent) body representing rail and road users.  AERBT has learnt that this will now not happen, at least a positive move regarding air travel by the current government.

The AUC has published its annual report, as always a most interesting document.  Complaints were once up 14,503 in 2009-2010, as against 13,485 last year and 12,619 the year before that.  The increase probably means that complaints were running at much the same level as previously, the increased use of home email inevitably meaning a rise in correspondence.  It is so much easier than writing a letter and posting it.

In the period April to June, the AUC received 7,519 complaints and enquiries compared to 3,086 for the same quarter the year before, mainly due to the ash crisis.  It also published a volcano information pack, although this enterprising document may have been overtaken by EU issues now pending following a UK High Court action.

The AUC has advised and commented on a number of serious issues during the year and for the most part has taken a common sense view, not necessarily siding with the airlines (the AUC thought that the Gatwick Express should stop at Clapham Junction).  Neither does it always agree with the passengers, not opposing the use of body scanners.  It has got involved with issues ranging from passenger rights to reforming the framework for the economic regulation of UK airports, the Montreal Convention limits and the activities of the Office of Fair Trading.

That the AUC is to continue independent of other transport advisory bodies is good news.  AERBT acknowledges that it sits in a sometimes awkward position, seen to many as part of the CAA, but only a tenant in its building, an Auxiliary Group within the CAA corporate structure but not constrained on expressing an independent view.  Our belief is that it ought perhaps to be a bit more outspoken at times.  After all it is called the Air Transport Users Council, with the emphasis on “Users”.

Malcolm Ginsberg
Editor in Chief



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