Fewer UK consumers complain about air travel

Fewer UK consumers complain about air travel

Complaints by UK consumers about passenger air travel are decreasing compared to those in other subject areas, according to consumer advice body the UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC).

Close monitoring of the numbers show that in 2016 ‘passenger transport by air’ accounted for 19.3% of all ‘assistance case’ grievances handled by the UK ECC. The previous year, 2015, they accounted for 23.8%.

Andy Allen, service director at the UK ECC, said: “UK consumers are visiting abroad more often and in 2016 more of these visits were to EU countries, but we are seeing a reduction in the number of complaints about passenger transport by air.

“This could be partly because some airlines now use an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body to help consumers resolve their complaints. Whilst it’s not compulsory for traders to actually use an ADR scheme, EU legislation came into effect in October 2015 to require traders to inform consumers of an approved ADR body if they’ve already been through their own customer service procedure.

“All of this is good news for consumers, but with the approach of school holidays the UK ECC is keen to ensure that UK consumers are aware of their air passenger rights.”

Air travel plays an intrinsic part in many people’s lives and, although most flights are problem-free, passenger transport by air has historically always accounted for a sizeable portion of the UK ECC’s overall complaints. Common problems when UK consumers complain about flights can include flight delays, denied boarding or booking/ticket problems. Complaints about lost or damaged luggage are in a separate category.

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Many consumers who complain as a result of their flight being delayed or cancelled can seek compensation from the airline, in keeping with Regulation 261/2004. The regulation established common rules on compensation and help for air passengers in certain situations. This legislation applies to passengers leaving from airports within an EU country and all those arriving into such airports from a third country where the flight is operated by an EU carrier.

However, an airline is exempt from having to pay compensation for flight delays caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures were taken. A Court of Appeal ruling in 2014, which clarified that ordinary technical faults should not be considered as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and that airlines still have to pay compensation for delays, adds strength to consumers’ complaints.

Other passengers who complain can seek reimbursement for expenses incurred. Under Regulation 261/2004, airlines are obliged to provide care and assistance to disrupted passengers regardless of the reason for the delay or cancellation. Passengers may ask for their money back when they have receipts for expenses such as food and refreshments incurred while their flight is disrupted.

Andy said: “We still get a sizeable number of complaints about passenger air travel, and we are very happy to help consumers either by letting know their rights, by doing an initial assessment of their case or by handling their complaint.”

Consumers can check out the UK ECC website for more details about UK consumers’ air passenger rights.

UK consumers can use the advice and support of the UK European Consumer Centre if they have a disput

The UK ECC’s aim is to help as many UK consumers as possible who encounter problems with a trader based in Europe, to achieve a resolution: a replacement, repair, refund or cancellation of their contract.