British tourists deserve an automatic refund for cancelled flights say Government MPs

Simon Calder says Briton’s will have to 'work’ for a holiday

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In the latest report from the Transport Select Committee, ‘UK aviation: reform for take off’, MPs said passengers deserved “automatic compensation”. Many Britons flights’ were cancelled during the pandemic.

Many of those affected faced long delays getting money back from airlines for the cancelled flights.

The Committee called for stronger action against airlines that are slow to pay refunds to affected customers.

It also argued for better protection for affected customers when an airline goes bust.

The report said: “The Government must introduce a mechanism to ensure that when entitled to a refund by law, airline passengers are granted automatic compensation, eliminating the need for customers manually to apply for a refund.”

It said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should utilise its “existing powers to challenge businesses and to pursue enforcement orders from the courts to tackle infringements of consumer rights in relation to refunds”.

However the CAA has said its powers were insufficient when it comes to enforcing refunds in some circumstances.

The MPs report did call for the CAA’s powers to be enhanced to “improve their oversight of airlines in distress”.

This would aid the CAA to mitigate any negative effects of an airline failure such as the collapse of Thomas Cook.

Rocio Concha, director of Policy and Advocacy at Which? said: “If the Government wants to future-proof the aviation sector it must prioritise restoring trust in travel with reforms that deliver for consumers.

“Consumer trust took a battering during the pandemic as some airlines ignored their obligations on refunds and passengers struggled with confusing restrictions and a dysfunctional travel testing system.

“Which? welcomes the committee’s recommendation for the aviation regulator to be given stronger powers.

“We have long called for the Civil Aviation Authority to be given the power to fine airlines directly, so operators can be held accountable when they flout the law.

“The committee also shares our concerns over the Government’s proposals to drastically cut the compensation due to passengers when domestic flights are delayed or cancelled.

“These should be dropped as removing this important deterrent for airlines risks making the chaos seen at airports over the Easter holiday period a more regular occurrence.”

The MPs report also criticised Government’s travel restrictions during the pandemic, saying they were “disproportionate to the risks.”

The report said that the Government’s frequently changing travel rules were not based on “scientific consensus”.

The UK Government introduced several travel changes at very short notice and many found the traffic light system hard to understand.

Updates were sometimes announced over Twitter giving airlines very little time to act on any changes.

The report said: “The way in which the Government introduced international travel restrictions during the pandemic was inconsistent, confusing industry and passengers.”

It said that the restrictions had damaged the airline industry. The committee is chaired by Conservative MP Huw Merriman.

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