Money Matters - Simplified

Airports to face fines for irking passengers

London, March 10: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will now be bestowed with more powers so as to keep a check on the working of airports and penalize them for inefficient operations.

As per the new system, BAA, a leading airport company, will face severe penalties if it replicates the mistakes committed during the chaotic inauguration of Terminal 5.

Fines in the form of rebates will be imposed on the airlines if there is a recurrence of the incident at Gatwick last year, when the airport was closed down for many hours following a sprinkling of snow.

Also, CAA can levy fines if regulated airports are not able to meet the performance objectives.

The proposed changes will give CAA the freedom to initiate a speedy investigation into cases where the operators fail to meet the acceptable service standards. This power would extend to about 15 airports.

It is worth taking note of the fact that BAA is responsible for working of three state-owned airports, namely London Heathrow Airport, London Gatwick Airport and Aberdeen Airport.

An airport would not face any penalty for delays due to bad weather. But if a CAA investigation discovers that the airport authorities did not deal efficiently with the problem, then they will have to face the music.

Among other modifications, the Government has proposed to appoint Passenger Focus. It is basically an independent rail consumer supervisory body that primarily works towards getting the best deal for rail passengers.

Passenger Focus would take place of the Air Transport Users Council, which is the current watchdog group. Air Transport Users Council looks into complaints of passengers.

In addition, Passenger Focus would give suggestions to the Government on enhancing the passenger’s experience.

The latest proposals were given by the Department for Transport after a survey revealed that passengers were usually happy with airports when they functioned smoothly. But they were equally unhappy at the inability of airports to tackle the disruptions caused by bad weather or security threats.

However, easyJet is not satisfied with the new proposals. A spokesman for the company said, “The CAA currently lacks the resources, expertise and, above all, credibility to be an effective regulator. It would be a high risk strategy to put so much more regulatory power into such an unproven structure.”

He added, “Furthermore, we believe that there needs to be a proper appeals process, which is glaring omission in the current system. The only body that has shown itself to be willing and capable of controlling the BAA airport monopoly is the Competition Commission.”

British Airways is also not very enthusiastic about the latest proposals. A spokesman for the company was quoted as saying, “Airport regulation needs a root and branch review to provide better and more efficient services for passengers and airlines. Over-charging combined with poor operational performance must be a thing of the past.”