New aviation ombudsman to deal with passengers’ complaints

Passengers with complaints against airlines are to have a new aviation ombudsman adjudicate their cases with binding effect in the near future.

Delays ar airports are one of the major complaints by passengers against airlines

Delays at airports are one of the major complaints by passengers against airlines. Image by Mark Hodson Photos / CC BY 2.0

This follows the unveiling of plans by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for the new independent office to deal with consumers’ complaints on a range of flight issues including delays and levels of compensation.

The announcement will spell the end of the CAA handling complaints against airlines. More power will be invested in the ombudsman than the authority itself had in dealing with the present complaints process.

Some airlines which were ruled against in the recent past have refused to pay compensation to complaining passengers despite CAA adjudication against them, which had led in some instances to consumers themselves taking court action.

The new plan has come on foot of a European directive on "alternative dispute resolution" which from July requires such schemes to be in situ, reports the Daily Telegraph.

This is to aid in the settling of disputes that can’t be resolved though normal business procedure.

The CAA will retain the responsibility of approving the alternative dispute resolution schemes across the sector. The authority is seeking to make all airline carriers join the scheme and wants legal changes to make it compulsory if that step is needed.

Iain Osborne, the CAA's group regulatory policy director said they were pushing these proposals forward so that consumers got the best possible support when they found themselves in dispute with airlines. He added that it wasn’t fair for passengers to have to take legal action to have their complaints resolved.

The executive director of Which? Richard Lloyd described the proposals “as a start” but pointed out that there didn’t appear to be any guarantee that the ombudsman could cover the whole market. He said that like in other areas, this position should offer a redress across the market, free to all consumers.

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