The UK government has published new proposals to ensure stronger enforcement powers for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), improved rights for disabled passengers and better access to dispute resolution.

The proposals are part of the government’s response to its consultation on aviation consumer policy reform published in January 2022.

Under the new plans, the CAA will be granted stronger enforcement powers with regards to consumer protection law, including issuing fines for breaches.

The DfT says that this will “lead to improved standards for all passengers on flights operating to and from the UK, increasing passenger confidence and boosting the aviation sector”.

The measures also promise “full and fair compensation” for damage to mobility equipment caused on UK domestic flights. Airlines are not currently required to cover the full cost of repairs, even if the equipment is damaged during the flight. The DfT adds that “airlines will also be encouraged to waive this cap for international flights”.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said:

“I’ve heard really concerning examples of passengers’ wheelchairs getting damaged and being left without full and fair compensation. It’s important that everyone can travel with confidence.”

The DfT will also offer free training to ground handlers to ensure mobility equipment is handled properly and avoid any chance of such incidents.

With regards to complaints, airlines flying to, from and within the UK would be required to be a member of the currently voluntary Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme, which gives customers a way to escalate complaints without the need to go to court.

Paul Smith, joint-interim chief executive at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, commented:

“We welcome the announcement from government today to enhance the rights of air passengers, alongside strengthening the enforcement powers of the Civil Aviation Authority and making ADR mandatory.

“We have long called for a stronger enforcement toolkit to bring us in line with other regulators. The plans announced today achieve this and will help ensure that the Civil Aviation Authority is better equipped to hold industry to account in meeting their obligations to passengers.

“Everyone should have equal access to air travel and the planned changes to compensation when mobility equipment is damaged will help to improve this. We encourage UK airlines to adopt the proposals immediately for all flights, not just domestic flights, in advance of legislation being introduced.”

Tanvi Vyas, aviation group lead at the Disabled People’s Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), also welcomed the plans:

“Providing compensation for damaged mobility equipment is certainly a move in the right direction to increase consumer confidence. Understanding the international element to this and encouraging waiving this for international flights is crucial for disabled travellers to travel with assurance and consistency.”

“When equipment is damaged, this doesn’t just scupper the short-term plans of the trip itself. An understanding of the longer-term impact physically, emotionally and financially is really important. This is why I hope offering free REAL training and the creation of a ground handlers training video raises the bar, enhances existing knowledge and sharpens minds to understand the gravity of the situation when damage occurs.”;