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UK Civil Aviation Authority to Reform Air Passenger Complaint Process

by Shahram Shirkhani

Recently, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced plans to reform its protocol for handling air travel complaints. Following a public consultation, the regulatory body will no longer handle complaints from air passengers and will instead create an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process utilizing an independent ombudsman system. Although it is transferring its responsibility for passenger complaints, the CAA will inspect and approve all ADR schemes for efficiency, efficacy, and accessibility, ensuring the impartial nature of all ombudsman groups. The CAA will also work to secure contractual ADR commitments with airlines. The agency hopes to see participation from airlines carrying at least half of their passengers in and out of the United Kingdom by September 2015, and will begin to phase out its Passenger Advice and Complaints Team once it reaches this goal.
The CAA’s ADR proposal will help passengers resolve disputes with airlines, aiming to ensure the just and efficient resolution of all consumer complaints. As fully independent organizations, the ADR groups will hold the authority to generate binding solutions to passenger issues, including the power to order airlines to pay flight delay compensation. As current CAA complaint procedures do not allow the agency to make legally binding rulings, numerous passengers with rejected flight delay claims have had no choice but to escalate their issues to the court system in recent years.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority seeks to improve the aviation customer experience with its new proposal, bringing it to the level of other sectors that currently offer ombudsman-style dispute resolution. The new system will also fall in line with the requirements of the European Directive on ADR, which states that consumers must have access to dispute resolution systems outside of firms’ in-house complaint processes.
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