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Government sets out plan to tackle summer travel disruption

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

The government has published a 22-point plan to help minimise disruption in the aviation sector in time for the peak summer period.

The Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said “the majority of UK flights continue to be on time and without disruption”.

But it admitted some passengers have faced disruption due to pent-up demand since the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, staff shortages and because of the time it takes to complete essential background checks and training before an employee can start work airside.

Many holidaymakers would disagree that things are going smoothly, particularly following today’s volume of Heathrow flights cancelled at short notice. Over the last few months, passengers have also complained about lengthy queues for check-in and at customs, big flight delays and flight cancellations leaving travel plans in tatters.

Included in the 22-point plan is the expectation that passengers must be promptly informed of their consumer rights when things go wrong and, if necessary, compensation in good time.

An Aviation Passenger Charter – a “one-stop guide” with details on rights and responsibilities will be launched to tell people what they can “reasonably” expect of the aviation industry when flying.

The government is also looking at giving the aviation regulator, the CAA additional enforcement powers.

Further, it will undertake a recruitment drive at colleges and universities, with roles listed via job centres, as well as a campaign to promote awareness of aviation careers.

Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “Holidaymakers deserve certainty ahead of their first summer getaways free of travel restrictions. While it’s never going to be possible to avoid every single delay or cancellation, we’ve been working closely with airports and airlines to make sure they are running realistic schedules.

“The 22 measures we’ve published today set out what we’re doing to support the industry. It’s now on airports and airlines to commit to running the flights they’ve promised or cancel them with plenty of time to spare so we can avoid the kind of scenes we saw at Easter and half term.

“With 100 days having passed since we set out that restrictions would be eased, there’s simply no excuse for widespread disruption.”

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “Another day of chaos at the UK’s biggest airport suggests the government’s working groups and written warnings to airlines and airports are not yet having the desired effect – and many passengers will understandably be concerned that this plan may not be enough to prevent a summer of travel disruption.

“Passengers have been treated appallingly during recent months. With the holiday plans of millions of people at stake, the government and aviation regulator must show they can get a grip on this situation and ensure airports and airlines meet their legal obligations to the travelling public in the busy weeks ahead.

“The shameful scenes at UK airports show why passengers need their rights to be strengthened and enforced by a strong regulator and compensation regime. The government should give the CAA powers to fine airlines directly when they flout the law, and drop plans to cut passenger compensation for delayed and cancelled domestic flights.”