MSE News

Airlines told they must improve how they handle cancellations – or face enforcement action

Airlines have been warned they must do everything they can to avoid further disruption or harm to passengers over the summer – or face enforcement action that includes possible court proceedings.

A joint open letter published today by two regulators, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), urges airlines to ensure travellers are kept informed of the status of their flights, are made aware of their rights, and are adequately supported where cancellations happen.

If your flight has been disrupted, see our full breakdown of your refund and compensation rights.

Concerns raised around overbooking and cancellation rights

The CMA and CAA said they were looking at evidence concerning a number of harmful practices by airlines, including:

  • Selling more tickets for flights than they can reasonably expect to supply and failing to warn passengers about the ensuing risk of cancellation.
  • Not offering to rebook passengers (including with alternative airlines where necessary) in the event of cancellation.
  • Not giving passengers sufficiently clear and upfront information about their rights on cancellation.
  • Not providing adequate and appropriate support and care where flights are cancelled or disrupted.

The watchdogs noted that "so far it appears that refunds and compensation are generally being processed and paid in a timely fashion" but that they wanted to ensure that delays with payments, and other issues, don't creep in over the summer as more flights are expected to be cancelled.

Airlines could face court proceedings if problems continue

In the letter from the CAA and CMA they said they would consider taking further action if they find consumers continue to experience serious problems in the coming weeks and months. This could include requiring firms to sign "undertakings" to comply with the law and, as a last resort, taking airlines to court. 

The CMA and the CAA do not currently have the power to fine firms directly if they breach consumer rights laws. However, earlier this year the Government announced it planned to give the CMA stronger enforcement powers through new legislation.

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