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Government Consultation Set To Begin for the Future of UK Aviation
As reported last week U.S. airlines are currently lobbying the U.S. government to rollback and review the more than 80 airline-related regulations which the Obama administration has introduced since 2008. A number of the regulations were implemented to protect consumers from practices related to ‘hidden’ or ancillary charges which masked the total price of an airline ticket, a practice which had become far to common in the industry.
Across the Atlantic in the U.K. it would appear that the opposite approach is being taken as the government plans to begin consultation on the possibility of stricter consumer protection policies and legislation to protect airline passengers.
The U.K. reforms are part of a Department for Transport (DfT) consultation process due to commence soon which will result in an aviation strategy document being published in late-2018. This follows a three-month call for evidence undertaken by the DfT between July and October 2017 on ‘The Future of Aviation’. Submissions were sorted on a range of issues including: airport expansion; competition within the industry; required future skills, and passenger experience.
The focus on passenger rights and consumer protection follows a U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) review in 2016 which looked into the terms and conditions by which airlines sold tickets to customers. The CAA review was concerned with the administration fees and additional charges imposed by carriers which can make the actual cost of a ticket significantly more than the originally advertised price.
In a statement pre-empting the beginning of the consultation process, U.K.’s newly-appointed Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said: “When passengers book flights, they can sometimes be hit with additional charges over and above the original quoted flight cost. Through our aviation strategy, we will explore ways to improve and enhance the information available, so passengers can make well-informed decisions.”
The appointment of Baroness Elizabeth Sugg as aviation minister in the U.K. has been welcomed by aviation industry groups seeking to navigate a post-Brexit landscape. In a speech earlier this month to the Airport Operator’s Association (AOA), Baroness Sugg confirmed that the U.K. will seek to remain a member of EASA, the European Aviation Safety Agency.
She also updated attendees on the progress of air service agreement negotiations: “My officials and I are working with the third countries where air services are currently governed by EU agreements, to ensure that new, replacement arrangements are in place after we leave the EU. Despite some reports to the contrary, talks so far have been positive and we have made significant progress.” In an answer to a question in Parliament this week asking specifically about U.K.-U.S. open skies agreements, Baroness Sugg repeated the same statement but added: “Both sides want to conclude these discussions soon.”
With increased connectivity and airport expansion seen as crucial for the U.K. to be able to compete outside of the EU, the aviation industry will be actively involved in the consultation process to shape the government’s strategy for the future of aviation in the country. Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of the aviation industry advocacy group Airlines U.K. told The Times on Saturday that: “We are engaging with the government on its aviation strategy and look forward to the publication of a green paper (consultation document) later this year and will respond accordingly to many of the policy questions under discussion, including on charges.”
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