Consumer champion calls for overhaul of flight complaints system
Which? is calling for a major overhaul of aviation complaints to save passengers from having to ‘jump through hoops’ to get compensation.
The consumer champion says all airlines should be made to sign up to a single dispute resolution service that makes binding decisions within a reasonable timeframe.
The majority of the largest airlines flying from the UK are signed up to one of two UK schemes, Aviation ADR or CEDR. While both have been authorised to handle escalated passenger complaints since 2016, neither is mandatory.
The association has criticised Ryanair for pulling out of one of the complaints bodies, Aviation ADR.
Data shows that, in the first 11 months of 2018, Aviation ADR received more than 14,000 Ryanair complaints and the airline was told to pay out more than £2.6 million in compensation between October 2018 and the end of March 2019.
Ryanair also had to pay at least £75 for each complaint Aviation ADR handled, suggesting a bill for more than £1 million in fees alone during 2018.
But after Ryanair cut ties with the arbitration scheme at the end of November last year, only 553 passengers pursued claims with the Civil Aviation Authority in the following four months. Which? says this resulted in ‘huge savings in fees and compensation for Ryanair, which cannot be compelled to pay out even if the aviation regulator finds in a passenger’s favour’.
As of April this year, 466 of these claims were unresolved and official figures do not reveal if anyone had received compensation.
Which? says that, even when Ryanair was with Aviation ADR, passengers complained of waiting as long as a year to receive any money, despite a pledge that claims would be processed within 90 days.
One passenger told Which? Travel she made a complaint in September 2017, received a ruling from the arbitrator in July 2018 and got compensation in November 2018. The 14-month-long process involved 170 phone calls and sending 45 emails.
Which? is now calling for the aviation sector to have a single mandatory resolution, to stop airlines being able to ‘pick and choose between schemes which can result in different outcomes for passengers’.
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “The broken aviation complaints system favours the interests of airlines over passengers, allowing them to wriggle out of paying compensation and putting many people off claiming at all.
“The uphill struggle that many have faced trying to claim the compensation they are owed has left thousands of holidaymakers significantly out of pocket for delayed and cancelled flights. It demonstrates why all airlines must be made to sign up to a single resolution scheme with real power to ensure passengers are treated fairly and money is paid out where it’s due.”