The Department for Transport (DfT) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have told carriers to cancel flights for July and August to avoid further travel disruption over the summer.

This comes after tens of thousands of passengers were affected by cancellations and delays across UK airports in May.

Richard Moriarty, CEO of CAA, and Rannia Leontaridi, the DfT’s director general for aviation maritime and security, wrote a joint letter to airlines, stating that “the outcomes for too many consumers recently have been unacceptable”.

The letter set out five expectations for the aviation sector, which are as follows:

  1. Summer schedule

“We think it’s important that each airline reviews afresh its plans for the remainder of the summer season until the end of September to develop a schedule that is deliverable.

Your schedules must be based on the resources you and your contractors expect to have available, and should be resilient for the unplanned and inevitable operational challenges that you 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.”

2. Airport partner working groups

The letter says that “all airport CEOs [should] take a leading role to bring together the airlines and ground handlers that operate at your airport, along with air traffic control and Border Force to create Airport Partner Working Groups.”

3. Consumer rights

Passengers should be “promptly, clearly and empathetically communicated with” during periods of cancellations, delays and denied boarding. “This should include informing passengers of their consumer rights in relation to refund and compensation routes if applicable”. Airlines are advised to have “sufficiently staffed call centres and user-friendly digital channels” to ensure that such refunds and compensations are paid.

Airlines should also “identify re-routing options on alternative airlines” and provide “suitable subsistence” and overnight accommodation should passengers be delayed.

The CAA added that it “will not hesitate to escalate matters with its enforcement role” if airlines are “systematically letting consumers down when it comes to those rights”.

4. Providing assistance to disabled and less mobile passengers

The CAA has written a separate letter to airports and airlines to highlight concerns and encourage immediate improvements.

5. Safety and security

The letter underlines that this must “not be compromised” over the coming weeks and months.