The Law Shop is now closed. Please click here to find out more.

Air fair? Aviation ombudsman could help mistreated passengers

Luke Whitmore - Law on the Web

  1. 22 September 2015
  2. Travel
  3. 0 comments

If you’ve ever had to complain to an airline, you might know just how difficult it can be. Some of them make it a chore to even contact them in the first place, failing to make address details or phone numbers easily available to disgruntled customers. Even if you do get through, you can never be sure whether they’ll listen to your complaint or simply try to fob you off with excuses.

However, thanks to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), it could soon be far easier to get a dispute with an airline sorted out. The CAA is the UK regulator for issues surrounding air travel, and right now it is the first port of call for mistreated passengers who have not have their complaints dealt with satisfactorily by the travel company in question.

At the moment, even if the CAA agrees with the customer that they were unfairly treated, there’s nothing it can do to make the airline accept their decision. If an unhappy traveller wants compensation in these circumstances, they’ll need to fight for it in court, which can be a costly and drawn-out procedure.

The CAA wants to put an end to this. With many other business sectors, consumers can go to an ombudsman if they’re not satisfied with how a company has conducted itself, allowing their complaint to be dealt with through a process known as alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The CAA intends to introduce a similar system to the world of air travel and establish an aviation ombudsman to deal with passenger complaints when the airlines fail to do so.

This should make escalating passenger complaints quicker and easier, and in addition, decisions made by the aviation ombudsman will be legally binding on the airlines, meaning court proceedings could be a thing of the past for unfortunate travellers.

Iain Osborne, Group Director of Regulatory Policy at the CAA, commented: “It can’t be right that many air passengers have to go to court to get a concrete resolution to their complaint - especially when they can easily go to an independent ombudsman with an unresolved telecoms, energy or financial services problem.

“We are not prepared to let that situation continue and moving towards an ombudsman-style approach for aviation will make sure air passengers benefit from the quick, fair and certain approach to dispute resolution that has long been the norm in other major consumer markets.”

The CAA’s goal was to have any airline that carries over half of its passengers to and from UK airports on board with the introduction of ADR by the 1st of September. Though there hasn’t yet been any clear indication as to whether this target was hit, hopefully the future will see a far easier way for air passengers to resolve any disputes they have with airlines – like many of their planes, it’s long overdue.

Share your experiences

Please note: The views expressed in community areas of this site do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Law on the Web, its owners, its staff or contributors. All comments are moderated prior to publication.

comments powered by Disqus