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Aviation: CAA ultimatum on re-booking

Many passengers don't realise that if their flight is cancelled, instead of a refund they have the right to be re-booked on an another flight, even one operated by a different airline. Offering travellers an alternative means of reaching their destination is enshrined in EU261, the European legislation that also dictates payment of compensation when delays or cancellations occur.

The lack of clarity over re-booking, especially with another carrier (known as 're-routing' in the industry), has bothered the UK Civil Aviation Authority for a while and it has investigated. Having requested airline policies, it found evidence that most had a mechanism in place to re-book customers on competitors when necessary. However, the authority found little clarity over when airlines would offer that option to passengers. Equally it appears that many airlines are not proactively telling their customers they have that choice.

Airlines can be reluctant to offer customers alternative tickets, because of course the original airline - the one that took the traveller's money in the first place - will have to pay their competitor to transport their passengers. Most carriers prefer to keep the revenue and fill their own aircraft. And re-booking will often be expensive because it will always have to be done at the last minute.

Anyway it's not always happening and now the CAA has given airlines six months to get their houses in order. In a letter the CAA pointed out that there might be times when re-routing on another airlines meant the benefit to consumers (typically arriving earlier than if forced to wait for the original airline's next flight) was outweighed by the cost of a new booking.

Paul Smith, Group Director, Consumers and Markets at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “We expect airlines to work towards making the necessary adjustments straight away. We appreciate it may take some time, in terms of IT systems and to train front-line staff and update passenger information. We will take account of this when deciding how to use our enforcement powers.”

The deadline is June 30, 2019. The agency has instructed airlines to to make adjustments to the systems and processes for re-routing passengers whose flights have been cancelled, while providing greater clarity and consistency in their information to consumers. The Aviation Oracle applauds this action by the CAA - as with compensation, the right to re-booking its enshrined in law and customers should always be made aware of their rights.

Text © The Aviation Oracle

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