Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has unveiled proposals to boost airline passenger protections and rights.
The UK government is consulting on the plans, which would enable passengers on domestic UK flights to claim compensation when their flight is delayed by more than one hour. Currently they have to have been held up for over three hours before being entitled to compensation.
The updated compensation model, based on that used by rail and ferry customers, would see a shift away from the current ‘set rate’ model.
Passengers would instead be able to claim compensation on a sliding scale based on the length of the flight delay and the ticket price.
The government is also considering making it mandatory for all airlines to be part of a dispute resolution scheme.
And there are proposals for airlines to provide wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility with the full amount of compensation for any damage caused to their wheelchair or mobility scooter during a domestic UK flight.
At present, airlines are not mandated to cover the cost of repairs, even if the device is damaged while in their care.
Shapps said that some of the proposals have been made possible due to the UK’s departure from the EU.
The plans were welcomed by Rocio Concha, director of Policy and Advocacy at consumer group Which?, who said:
“This consultation is a welcome first step that must improve and strengthen consumer rights and protections so that complaints are dealt with fairly and promptly, and that passengers receive the money they are due quickly and without unnecessary hassle.
“It is also vital that the system is backed up by a regulator with the powers it needs to take swift and strong action against any company that breaks consumer law.”
Budget airline Ryanair has reported a record after-tax loss of €815m (£703m) for the financial year to the end of March 2021 after the Covid-19 pandemic curtailed domestic and international travel.
Revenues declined by 81% to €1.64bn, in line with the drop in traffic which fell to just 27.5 million passengers from 148.6 million in the previous year.
But group CEO Michael O’Leary said the airline is seeing growing demand, suggesting that “recovery has already begun”.
Bookings have reached 1.5 million a week, from 500,000 a week in early April.
“The rate of bookings suggests there is a huge amount of confidence,” O’Leary told the BBC. “We are very optimistic for the next couple of months.”
He also said that, with most European populations likely to be vaccinated by September, the airline is anticipating a particularly strong recovery in October to March, the second half of its financial year.
Overall, passenger numbers for the current financial year are now expected to be towards the lower end of the previously forecast range of 80 to 120 million passengers.
The airline said it was “impossible to provide meaningful FY22 guidance at this time” but it is hoping to break even.
Heathrow Airport has proposed making its third runway 300m shorter in a bid to cut costs in its development scheme, according to the Guardian.
The northwestern runway would be reduced in length by 300m to reduce costs to £15bn as a way to help ensure the plans go ahead. The government has supported expansion of Heathrow but says this must not mean higher fares for passengers.
The plans have also been amended to incorporate the third runway traffic within the two existing terminals, rather than building a new terminal. Heathrow claims the third runway can be delivered for £14.3bn, £2.5bn less than the original price. Construction would be delivered in phases to reduce expense and disruption.
With a shorter runway the nearby M25 would still need to be moved 150m to the west, but the airport now proposes that a shallower tunnel could be used in combination with a slightly ramped runway.
Heathrow has also said it will award higher compensation to those living in affected areas, enforce a six-and-a-half hour ban on night flights and stay within air quality limits.
It is expected that a parliamentary vote will be held on the expansion plans at some point this year as a national policy statement on aviation is put forward for debate.
Emma Gilthorpe, executive director for expansion at Heathrow said: “We need feedback to help deliver this opportunity responsibly and to create a long-term legacy both at a local and national level. Heathrow is consulting to ensure that we deliver benefits for our passengers, businesses across the country but also, importantly, for those neighbours closest to us.”
Airport chiefs have warned that Glasgow’s flight paths are no longer fit for purpose, according to BBC News. A 13-week consultation plan has been launched to assess whether the flight paths, which have been in use since the 1960s, should be amended.
New flight routes have been proposed, with advocates claiming they will enable the airport to cope with more passengers and reduce airspace congestion. However, the proposals have been met with opposition from local people who are concerned about noise pollution affecting their homes.
The proposals for change have been issued as part of the UK Future Airspace Strategy (FAS), supported by the Civil Aviation Authority.
The plans involve removing ground-based navigation aids and relying on satellite systems instead. The ground-based systems currently in use by Glasgow Airport are to be decommissioned in 2019.
Using satellite systems could help to make airspace management more efficient, reducing the time planes queue in the air and thereby cutting C02 and fuel emissions. It is estimated that the change would allow for CO2 emissions to be cut by 21% (12,910 tonnes).
Mark Johnston, operations director at Glasgow Airport, said: “The flight paths used at Glasgow Airport have not changed in over 50 years and, as is the case with the wider UK airspace infrastructure, they are simply no longer fit for purpose.
“We now need to ensure the way we manage our airspace matches the advancements that have been made in aircraft technology.”
Budget airline Norwegian has revealed a new management team, with the appointment of a new chief financial officer to help fuel “ambitious growth plans”, according to City A.M.
The new senior structure is said to be a response to rising competition in the sector. Geir Karlsen is set to join Norwegian from London-based shipping firm Navig8 Group. The current chief financial officer is to change roles, becoming executive vice president of strategic development.
In 2017, Norwegian gained a number of new routes and flights, including 28 weekly slots at London Gatwick. The airline flew 5.8m passengers from the UK and Ireland last year, up more than 25% on 2016. 15 new routes were launched, including long-haul routes and its first link with South America.
The airline’s chief executive Bjorn Kjos said of Karlsen: “A major part of his professional experience clearly resembles the airline industry, where lease agreements and financing of major transactions are key to succeed. At the same time, he has extensive management experience from major international companies that is very important to enable Norwegian’s global growth.”
Competition is particularly fierce in the aviation industry at present. Last year Monarch and Air Berlin went into administration. Norwegian is seeking to expand its market position in order to lead in long-haul low-cost flights.
A UK aerospace and defence trade association has called for the UK to remain as an EU member state for a post-Brexit transitional period, according to FlightGlobal.
ADS chief executive Paul Everitt told the UK’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee that the organisation’s members wanted to retain the current arrangement throughout a transitional period after Brexit, which is scheduled for March 2019.
Everitt said: “For us, status quo means retaining our EU membership during that period. That’s important for our sector because much of our regulatory framework is shaped by our membership of the EU.
“The reason why we think it’s the best deal to stay an EU member state during the transition is because we have a whole series of bilateral agreements that would have to be negotiated and in place at the moment that we cease to be an EU member state.”
Everitt said that leaving the EU without a deal would be the “worst possible outcome from an industry perspective” and called for clarity on the terms of a transitional period “as early as possible in 2018”.
Airbus UK senior vice-president Katherine Bennett also presented evidence to the committee. Bennett said “some firm decisions” were needed to avoid the deterioration of the aerospace industry within the UK.
The UK Royal Aeronautical Society’s president-elect Simon Henley acknowledged that the European Space Agency (ESA) is not an EU body and membership would not be affected by Brexit. However, Henley also noted that many ESA projects are funded by the EU, including Galileo, and suppliers for these projects are required to be from a member state.
Boeing has announced a major new order of 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliners for Emirates Airline, according to BBC News.
The $15bn (£11.3bn) deal was made public on the first day of the Dubai Airshow. It had been expected that the airline would announce a deal to purchase the Airbus A380 superjumbo, but chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said the Boeing had been chosen instead.
The order will be a blow for Airbus, which is in pressing need of more orders for its A380. Emirates is the largest airline in the Middle East. It already has 165 Boeing 777s in service and a further 164 on order.
Some of the 787 Dreamliners on order will be used to replace existing stock, while others will expand the airline’s fleet. Delivery of the aircraft is scheduled to begin in 2022.
Kevin McAllister, head of Boeing’s commercial aviation division said the deal was welcome and would sustain a large number of jobs in the USA.
Boeing also announced a contract to sell five Dreamliners to Azerbaijan Airlines, in a deal worth around $2bn. Boeing has won around 65% of all global new orders for aircraft so far this year.
A Labour peer is calling for an investigation into the financial arrangements of collapsed airline Monarch, according to BBC News.
Lord Myners has said the preferred creditor status of Greybull Capital, which is owed £150m by Monarch, could be a matter of “fraudulent preference.” Greybull will be repaid before other creditors when Monarch’s landing slots and other assets are sold.
Greybull purchased Monarch three years ago. In the months leading up to the failure of the Luton-based company, the investment firm tried unsuccessfully to find a purchaser. Lord Myners has told peers he would like the private equity firm’s actions to be investigated.
A spokesman from Greybull Capital said: “Greybull’s involvement with Monarch since 2014 kept the airline flying and its employees in work for three years when no other rescue bid was on the table. Greybull provided significant capital to Monarch and did not receive dividends, interest or any repayments of its loans.”
The aviation minister Lord Callanan said that the administrators handling Monarch would report on the directors’ actions within three months, confirming that “if there is any evidence the directors have acted improperly we will not hesitate to take action against them.”
The collapse of the airline has made 1,800 employees redundant and left 110,000 travellers in need of rescue flights. More passengers still are seeking to recover tickets for future travel.
Monarch Airlines has gone into administration, following a failure to agree a renewal of its package holiday licence with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), according to Business Traveller.
The carrier, which operated scheduled and charter flights, cancelled 300,000 bookings for future flights and holidays, affecting up to 750,000 people. Monarch employs around 2,100 people.
Around 110,000 customers are overseas and will require assistance from the CAA to return home in an operation Transport Secretary Chris Grayling described as the UK’s ‘biggest ever peacetime repatriation’.
Monarch reported a £291m loss for the year ending October 2016. In the year ending October 2015 it made a £27m profit. The administration was announced at 4:00 BST on Monday morning – at a time when no passengers were midair.
Grayling said: “Together with the CAA, we will work around the clock to ensure that Monarch passengers get the support they need. Nobody should underestimate the size of the challenge, so I ask passengers to be patient and act on the advice given by the CAA.”
The Monarch website now redirects visitors to the CAA’s page offering advice for affected consumers.
Ryanair has announced a further slew of flight cancellations and amended its growth plans amid continued negative publicity, according to Reuters.
The budget airline said that hundreds of thousands of customers would be told their flights had been cancelled due to a shortage of pilots in the coming months. In September and October over 2,000 flights have been cancelled due to rostering problems.
The latest announcement raises the number of affected passengers to 400,000 from 300,000. Ryanair has taken a nosedive in reputation and share price due to the cancellations.
CEO Michael O’Leary said: “We sincerely apologise to those customers who have been affected by last week’s flight cancellations, or these sensible schedule changes announced today.”
The fast-growing airline had been aiming to reach 142 million passengers by March 2019 but this figure has now been scaled back to 138 million. Average ticket prices will also fall as the airline launches seat sales promotions. Ryanair also said that it was shelving plans to bid for bankrupt Italian airline Alitalia.
Ryanair had previously said that it would tackle the staff shortages by compelling some pilots to postpone leave and by offering cash incentives to work additional days. Some pilots responded by joining trade unions in a bid to force an improvement of their working conditions.