You heard right. Domestic airline passengers in the UK could soon be entitled to compensation for delays of more than an hour.
Trying to travel during these uncertain times is a bit like running the gauntlet. You have to weigh up the risks of a new strain popping up while you’re away, forcing travel restrictions and possibly even a new lockdown with the much more likely outcome of a delayed flight. Of course, there’s much less risk for flying domestically, but flight delays can sometimes seem as inevitable as the slow march of time. No one wants to be stuck in an airport for hours on end, risking the small sliver of hope they cling on to in order to check the flight board, only for said hopeful illusion to be shattered as, sure enough, they’ve still got to wait 3 hours for that flight to Scotland. The worst part about all of this is that, according to the current laws, passengers don’t even get compensated for the delay if it’s less than three hours – and even then, they might not get a full refund. Seems like a bit of a scam, don’t you think? Well, apparently the government thinks so, too! The department for transport recently announced plans for a new model on Monday which would see a partial refund on a passengers ticket offered after a one-hour delay, rising to 50% after two, and receiving that ever-elusive full refund after three. The government claims that this is now possible owing to Brexit, with the voiding of the current EU based system. While that may be true, it could actually result in passengers losing money on a refund claim. You see, with the current and soon-to-be previous system, passengers experiencing a three-hour delay must be paid at least £220 – a safety net which would mean customers can expect a flat refund on at least some of their ticket cost. With these new rules, however, tickets that cost less than £220 will see their holders lose out on that flat sum, which will affect cheaper domestic flights and flights through budget carriers more than international ones.
Great news for those budget airlines then, who have historically been against the £220 compensation rule, claiming that most of the time it outstrips the actual cost of a ticket, while they receive no compensation whatsoever. I can see the frustration there, especially if it’s something like inclement weather delaying a flight which (unless you’re God) is impossible to control. I can, however, also see the inevitable outrage when Dave from Luton tries to claim on his delayed EasyJet flight to Cornwall, only to find out he’s only getting half of his 30 quid back, instead of that tasty £220 pay-out. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, stated that these proposals “aimed to bolster airline consumer protections and rights,” however, he seems to fail to acknowledge this facet of the proposed system which could actually benefit airlines over consumers. There is still a slight stipulation that may anger some of the airline bigwigs in this new system, however. The Civil Aviation Authority will be granted more power to enforce the laws around customer protections, which could see airlines slapped with some rather hefty fines if they’re found to be in breach of said laws. The CAA’s chief executive, Ricard Moriarty, stated how the move towards a new system was “a clear indication of the need to enhance our enforcement powers and bring us in line with other regulators.” What’s important to remember here is that this new system is still only a proposal and will most likely be fine-tuned in the coming months. It will be interesting to see who the government decides to side more with – the average Dave, or those big-budget airlines.