Airlines told to review summer flights now and cancel sooner rather than later

By Linsey McNeill
Home » Airlines told to review summer flights now and cancel sooner rather than later

Airlines have been urged by industry regulators to review their schedules up to September and develop ones that are ‘deliverable’.

In a joint letter from the Department for Transport and the CAA, they were told schedules must be based on resources that airlines and contractors expect to have available.

Plus, they were told these ‘should be resilient for the unplanned and inevitable operational challenges’ that they will face.

 “While cancellations at any time are a regrettable inconvenience to passengers, it is our view that cancellations at the earliest possibility to deliver a more robust schedule are better for consumers than late notice on the day cancellations,” said the letter.

It followed a meeting of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee today, where it was agreed that CEOs from airlines, airports and ground handlers will provide weekly updates to a new Strategic Risk Group, chaired by the Aviation Minister.

It was also agreed that the already-established Summer Resilience Group will meet weekly instead of fortnightly.

The letter also reminded airlines that when there were cancellation and delays, passengers should be ‘promptly, clearly and emphatically communicated with’.

“This should include informing passengers of their consumer rights in relation to refund and compensation routes if applicable,” it said.

“Also when dealing with operational challenges, we expect you to have the processes and resources in place to keep consumers informed, such as having sufficiently staffed call centres and user friendly digital channels to ensure refunds and compensation are paid in good time.”

It ‘encouraged’ airlines to re-route passengers as much as possible, even if it meant using rival airlines.

“It is also important that where passengers are delayed they receive suitable subsistence and, if they need to stay overnight, suitable accommodation promptly,” added the letter, which was signed by CAA chief Richard Moriarty and Rannia Leontaridi of the DfT.

Airlines were also warned not to compromise on safety and security. “We stress that the sector’s strong track record for
ensuring the highest safety and security standards must be maintained and not weakened as you plan for, and respond to, the challenges you face over the coming weeks and months,” said the letter.

Last week, Wizz Air boss Jozsef Varadi caused concern after he allegedly told tired pilots not to take sick leave, but the airline has since insisted that safety is its ‘first priority’.

The CAA and DfT letter also raised concerns that airlines have not been providing adequate assistance to disabled passengers since the pandemic.

“As you know failure in this area is simply unacceptable and this is a key area to get right,” it added.

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