Aviation: UK 30 year strategy
The UK government has launched consultation on its aviation strategy which will set the direction for the country's airports, airlines and airspace for the next 30 years. In the introduction to the document Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg says: "We need a long-term plan for sustainable growth to ensure the industry’s continued success, to 2050 and beyond. That is the starting point for our new Aviation 2050 strategy."
The 200-page document is divided into eight major parts:
The role of aviation in a changing world
Build a global and connected Britain
Ensure aviation can grow sustainably
Support regional growth and connectivity
Enhance the passenger service
Ensure a safe and secure way to travel
Support general aviation
Encourage innovation and new technology
There's a lot to digest as the plan also encapsulates the governments ideas in areas such as climate change, slot regulation, airspace reconfiguration (itself the subject of another consultation just launched by the Civil Aviation Authority), public service obligation routes support, and deployment of solutions such as biometrics and blockchain.
Section 5 - Enhance the passenger service - immediately caught The Aviation Oracle's eye. In it, the government proposes developing a Passenger Charter for aviation. It notes that most passengers are happy with their air travel experiences, but that the proportion who are satisfied has declined from 90% to 83% over the last two years. The government believes that the industry could do more to address problems faced by travellers, especially managing delay and disruption, and also lending greater assistance to persons with additional needs.
The proposed Passenger Charter will define standards for a range of issues including:
Standards for booking information and clear terms and conditions.
Service levels for processing people at the border.
Standards for notification of delays, complaint handling and compensation claims.
Expectations and obligations on compensation and repatriation for when an airline becomes insolvent.
Accessibility standards for disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs).
Service standards for consumers with hidden disabilities and/or allergies.
Expectations around the management of disruptive passengers.
To achieve all of that, the government is proposing to:
Set up a performance framework with clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to allow monitoring, reporting and ongoing improvement.
Expand CAA enforcement powers with respect to legal obligations for passengers with reduced mobility and compensation claims.
Define new standards for open data, data sharing and data protection.
Improve border performance standards through changes to business and delivery models and funding arrangements.
Enhance passenger representation.
Taking just one of the points raised in section 5 - Standards for notification of delays, complaint handling and compensation claims - Aviation 2050 goes on to propose a variety of approaches to improve the industry's response:
Set standards for timely notification to passengers of flight delays or cancellation.
Set standards for quality response to complaints.
Simplify the compensation process and speed up the payment of claims.
Improve standards for timely and consistent notification to passengers of their eligibility for compensation.
Review Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to ensure it is working in the best interests of consumers.
Encourage the industry to offer ADR to all passengers. If insufficient progress is made on a voluntary basis the government will consider mandating it in the future.
Develop a performance framework including KPIs to monitor performance against the standards.
Expand the range of enforcement powers available to the CAA by providing for fines for breaches of Regulation 261/2004 (EU delay / cancellation compensation rules).
Interesting stuff, and no doubt that some of it is needed. But is an all-encompassing Passenger Charter really necessary? Aviation 2050 notes: "The aviation industry has an excellent track record at responding to changing consumer demands."
On the other hand, the government says its role is to: "continue to provide a regulatory and policy framework that facilitates innovation, while ensuring that consumers’ needs are met, even in more difficult circumstances."
As far as The Aviation Oracle can tell, a Passenger Charter on this scale smacks of yet more burdensome regulation. Additional rules and procedures potentially mean higher costs, which will ultimately be passed on to passengers. The aviation industry is already doing better than many when it comes to dealing with its customers fairly, consistently and in a timely manner. Yes there are specific areas - and operators - over which closer scrutiny would be beneficial. But there is a need to strike a balance between high-quality customer service and an excessively restrictive and regulatory regime that costs too much and gets in the way of running businesses efficiently. The extensive scope of the Passenger Charter proposed by Aviation 2050 might not be the best answer.
The government's Aviation 2050 document can be downloaded at: Aviation2050
The consultation closes on April 11, 2019 and responses can be submitted online at: Aviation2020 response
The Aviation Oracle intends to delve into other areas of the Aviation 2050 strategy document in the coming days.
Text © The Aviation Oracle