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Passengers get say on airport chaos

Aviation authority wants to hear from travellers so that it can tell airports to improve performance in bad weather

PASSENGERS get a chance to speak their minds about how the airlines and airports handled the winter snow disruption that wrecked the travel plans of thousands, in a survey organised by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Aiming to ensure it knows what changes are needed for the future – and what to demand from airports if the government gives it extra powers – the CAA has put the survey on its website here where it will be available for two weeks.

A press spokesman said the survey was a way of finding out what happened to passengers and if the airports, airlines and other companies operating at UK airports met, or failed to meet, their expectations.

They are also interested to find if travellers were kept informed about problems and about their rights to assistance from airlines.

The spokesman said: “The Civil Aviation Authority licenses airports, but it has no powers over them.

“There has been some indication from the government it could give increased powers to the CAA to demand that airports are better prepared for the weather and that the CAA could tell the airports to stay open and clear things up more quickly.

“If they do give us this authority, then we do need to know passengers were treated and we need to be in a position to take on that role.

“We could in theory compel airports to either remain open, to clear the snow quickly or face financial penalties. There would be an incentive there for airports to do more.

“We can persuade airports such as Heathrow to have more snow-clearing facilities, more snowploughs and so on; a kind of carrot and stick approach.

“To be fair to the airports, they had problems that were out of their control: approach roads were closed and car parks were iced up, so they need support from local authorities to keep those sorts of things running.

“So it’s not just down to the airports; there are complex issues and lessons need to be learnt.”

Heathrow Airport has set up a separate inquiry to look at its performance. A website has been set up at heathrowenquiry.com, through which travellers can give their own stories.

European Union passenger rights against airlines when flights are delayed, cancelled or overbooked are laid out in Regulation (EC) 261/20044 which you can access here

Photo: In-Press-Dave Poultney

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