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Government may drop plans to cut flight compensation on domestic routes

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Transport Secretary (at least until next week) Anne-Marie Trevelyan has indicated that Government plans to scrap the EU compensation scheme for cancelled or delayed domestic flights will themselves now be scrapped.

The plan had been proposed her predecessor Grant Shapps. The idea was to move to a similar model to that used by the rail companies, with your compensation being a percentage of the ticket price.

The obvious problem with this idea is that it would have to live alongside – not instead of – the existing EC261 compensation regime. Whilst Brexit gives the UK the ability to change the compensation rules on domestic flights, it cannot change the rules on short haul flights to or from the EU.

Government drops plans to reduce flight compensation on domestic routes

Asking airlines to operate two different compensation regimes does not make things easier for anyone.

This isn’t why the plans are being dropped, however.

Trevelyan believes a move to a rail-style compensation scheme for domestic flights – which would be substantially cheaper in terms of totals paid out than the current scheme – would encourage airlines to cancel more flights and generally make life worse for customers.

It could even lead to airlines prioritising domestic flights for cancellation in cases where they found themselves short of crew or aircraft.

During the Commons’ Transport Select Committee meeting this week, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said:

“The industry is pushing to have a railway-style compensation system, which in the view of many, including consumer groups and the travelling public, is completely different from air travel.

“If your flight is cancelled or delayed you often end up having to pay for a hotel, you’re caused huge inconvenience and extra expense.

“The idea all you’ll get back is a fraction of the actual fare or even the full fare would not be adequate, would it?”

Trevelyan agreed and indicated that the proposals from her predecessor were likely to be dropped.

Government may drop plans to cut flight compensation on domestic routes

Under the Grant Shapps proposal, passengers would have received:

  • 25% of the ticket prices for delays of 1-2 hours
  • 50% of the ticket price for delays of 2-3 hours
  • 100% of the ticket price for delays of over three hours

Under the current EU compensation scheme, compensation is:

  • €250 for flights up to 1,500 km
  • €400 for European flights above 1,500 km

Rocio Concha from Which? magazine said in a statement sent to HfP:

“Which? has been campaigning for stronger powers for the aviation regulator, including the ability to directly fine airlines – so it’s good news for passengers that the Department for Transport is planning legislation to give the Civil Aviation Authority powers to crack down on operators that flout the law.

“It was positive to hear the Transport Secretary indicate that proposed cuts to domestic flight compensation may no longer go ahead, and acknowledge the consumer champion’s view that when properly enforced, compensation rules act as a vital deterrent against airlines treating passengers badly and employing practices like overbooking flights or cancelling them at the last minute.”

It isn’t clear what is happening in regards to compensation for international long-haul flights. The Government had implied that it wanted to rip up this ruling as well, but it was always unlikely that compensation for EU flights would remain whilst long-haul payments would not.

Comments (79)

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  • Sam says:

    Thank god that brexit doesn’t (after all) give them the freedom to burn all the consumer protections we gained when part of the EU

  • AJA says:

    Good news. Anything that reduced consumer protections is a bad thing. I find the existing compensation scheme works OK but it could work better and hold tge aitlines more accountable. As it is there are enough get out clauses for airlines to wriggle out of their obligations.

  • KevinS says:

    May happen. So it may not.

    Not really a story yet.

  • TimM says:

    It would be better to make the rail compensation scheme more like EC261. That would focus some minds.

    • BlueThroughCrimp says:

      The DfT might stop macro-managing if the bill came back to them.

    • JDB says:

      In the event the automaticity of rail refunds were ever applied to airline compensation, it would surely on be on the basis of vastly lower payouts. It’s is a nice idea, but one needs to be careful what one wishes for.

    • Panda Mick says:

      This I completely agree with….

      Of course, Avanti would go under over night. Not a bad thing…

    • John says:

      I would prefer EC261 to pay out in all circumstances regardless of fault, which is what the rail delay repay scheme does.

      If you feel uncomfortable about getting a free trip when someone has committed suicide by train you can donate the money to a mental health charity.

    • David says:

      I’d like to see the cliff-edges which’re present in both to be removed. At present you get no compensation if your flight is delayed 2hr59min and quite a lot if it’s delayed 3hr (similar with trains but different thresholds and rates). Far better to say no compensation for first x minutes (maybe 10% of scheduled journey time) then a flat number of pounds per minute after that.

  • The Savage Squirrel says:

    “It could even lead to airlines prioritising domestic flights for cancellation in cases where they found themselves short of crew or aircraft.”

    Yes of course the ideal is no cancellations ever, but given the world is not and never will be perfect, is this necessarily a bad thing when domestic travel is far more likely to have viable alternatives available than international travel? Ah wait, of course it is – as it would affect all those MPs on the friday night Newcastle and Scottish flights every week 😀

    • Niall says:

      It would be an incredibly bad thing for Northern Ireland.

      • The Savage Squirrel says:

        Fair point. At the risk of starting a political debate in which I do not want to be involved, Northern Ireland IN THIS VERY LIMITED CONTEXT should probably be considered an international destination.

        • memesweeper says:

          and Scottish islands, and that bit of Cornwall you can’t reach in a day from the midlands in a day without a plane … etc etc. honestly, it’s just easier to keep everything aligned with EU regs.

          Whilst there are very often many better domestic alternatives to late-notice cancelled trains, late night cancellations on trains (and on coaches too) can result in people stranded in cities with expensive hotels and no route home. Delay repay is inappropriately cheap in these circumstances.

    • David says:

      Because a cancellation (or severe delay) of your flight home impacts your personal life the same amount regardless of where you were coming from. So there shouldn’t be an incentive to delay one group of people (who’re traveling domestically) over another group of people

  • Paul says:

    As project fear clearly warned, Brexit was always about removing rights, and taking back control simply giving control to those in charge.
    Domestic services are already the first choice of cancellation and that has been true since the demise of British Midland. Prior to that, BA competed with them vigorously including a much valued punctuality and reliability competition which ran between the two airlines. Monopolies however don’t need to compete!
    While I can nothing about domestic regulations, I for one would be inclined to only fly on EU carriers to and from Europe if there was any watering down of current regulations. It would also encourage me to look at long haul very carefully especially given the regular chaos that engulfs U.K. airports for a myriad of reasons. While these may not always be eligible for compensation, duty of care remains a valuable protections and frankly worth more than an Avios point

    • Rob says:

      You’ve given control to the bond markets 🙂

      • VinZ says:

        That’s what happened to Italy in 2011. Berlusconi was ousted and everybody blamed the evil EU but it was the bond markets. Fast forward 11 years…
        Personally I’d rather be led by the international markets than this bunch of donkeys.

    • Save East Coast Rewards says:

      BA always used to cancel domestics first even when they were competing with BD whereas the domestic market was more important to BD and was one of the reasons I used to book BD on the domestic routes that they operated

    • Andrew. says:

      The Domestic market has changed significantly since the days of BMI.

      Firstly there aren’t two large banks based in the Capital anymore with a daily flow of staff to and from London. The lounges used to be full of people in Bank skirts and bank ties every morning and evening. Both BoS and RBS commanded enough business to have fixed price flexible return flights on the domestics (£80 on BMI).

      Whilst both airlines were very much in competition, they both took a pragmatic view on scheduling and loadings. On upteen occasions I was switched from BMI to BA or vice versa at checkin.

  • JDB says:

    The EU will lead the change to EC261 as the Regulation is now 18 years old and not fit for purpose as so many judgments have illustrated. The actual rules for instance don’t provide compensation for delays, has the odd wording re leaving early and has excessive compensation levels set before LCCs became dominant and other flaws. There is pressure from the heavyweight flag carriers supported by their governments as well as the LCCs as consumer champions saying the rules push up fares.

    • memesweeper says:

      If LCCs are “too cheap” to pay adequate compensation they can put their fares up. If someone wants to sell me a loss-leader ten euro fare they should understand I damn well expect to get to my holiday/business meeting and in the event of their service failure it is going to cost me a great deal more than a tenner if I can’t get there as planned.

      • meta says:

        @JDB There were several attempts to change the regulation with the last one being in 2020. They were quickly shut down, it’s not happening anytime soon . ECJ clarifies many points with rulings, this actually becomes primary legislation and forms part of the same EC261/2004 regulation.

        Fundamental problem with the UK government, most UK lawyers and the media is not understanding how EU law functions.

        Another set of problem is that not many passengers m are actually willing to go through the pain of bringing various ambiguities to ECJ to rule on them. This is both because of cost and pure laziness.

        • JDB says:

          You make good points but one of the reasons it will change is precisely the issue you raise – that not many people challenge, so it is really only aimed at ‘middle class’ travellers who know the rules, not the mass market that has become so important since the Regulation was enacted in 2004.

          It is quite wrong and really rather rude to suggest that the UK government and lawyers don’t understand how EU law functions. They do, which is precisely why the ECJ is so unpopular in this country with anyone who has the remotest understanding of how it operates. In this country, only Parliament can ‘make law’ and the courts can only interpret that law, not as the ECJ does, which is effectively to legislate by changing the law as for example in EC261 which does not provide compensation for delay. The ECJ said a long delay is the same as a cancellation, so compensation is due. That is legislating, not interpreting. They make it up as they go along and even within the EU it is highly controversial. There are endless examples across many spheres and the issue of judicial overreach is much debated. The same judicial overreach resulted in the recent US Supreme Court decision re abortion rights and the elected legislature is powerless to legislate vs the decision of nine politically appointed judges. Fortunately our larger and independently appointed Supreme Court justices are very conscious of the separation of powers.

          • Lady London says:

            Uh? Law is made here in the UK also, by case law ie judgments made. AKA “judge-made law”.

            And I see nothing wrong with that, in UK or EU.

          • JDB says:

            @Lady London I’m sorry, but that is completely incorrect. UK judges do not make law, they simply apply and interpret the law in relation to a set of facts. It is possible that the interpretation has the effect of doing something the legislature did not intend to happen so Parliament may then amend the law to reflect its wishes/intention. The ECJ rewrites the rules to reflect its opinion.

            Sometimes the UK Supreme Court gives judgments that it acknowledges give an unfair result and suggests Parliament might wish to consider an amendment, but doesn’t give a judgment that reflects its opinion because the law doesn’t allow that. Clearly you don’t believe me, so listen to or read Lord Sumption, former President of the Supreme Court. It’s quite rare to have the privilege of listening to someone so intelligent, with such clarity of thought and with such concise and precise use of language. It is very accessible and he talks about lots of legal systems; the US is particularly interesting. Although he was our top judge, he is very anti judges making law.

            He will put you right and you will thank him!

          • His Holyness says:

            I agree with you regarding the CJEU. Also the calibre of the judges is less than…expected. It functions as a legislating arm of the Commission, however I’d argue it was setup to be that way, in the same way the EP is more like the Duma or Rada. The Council has the power. The reason the UK found it difficult was because in the Council, the EP and the Commission they were at odds with the UK position.

            Therefore, as common with a lot of poorly written EU Directives, Regulations, it might have even been deliberate to catch as much as possible.

            I think you’re doing LL a disservice. Especially as you praise Sumption for making things easy to understand. I’ve read his piece, and he’s not arguing against Common Law which is surely what LL was at least referring to.

          • Mike says:

            “The same judicial overreach resulted in the recent US Supreme Court decision re abortion rights and the elected legislature is powerless to legislate vs the decision of nine politically appointed judges.”

            I think you completely misunderstand the SCOTUS decision, it wasn’t judicial overreach, in fact it was the opposite, the court decided legislating on abortion was beyond its mandate, they said that the decision to control the matter should be left to the states to legislate in their democratically elected chambers. The original decision by SCOTUS was made on the grounds of privacy which was a bit of a stretch, but could just about fit within the parameters of the case.

            The failure here was not SCOTUS, but 50 years of congressional failure to legislate at a federal level, have the debate that many countries including the UK have had. Secondly, this went to the supreme court because a state wanted to drop the limit down to the same as Germany and many European countries. It’s a complex issue so let’s not misrepresent it.

        • JDB says:

          One of the other issues is that under the EU law system that you seem to prefer over the US, UK, Canada, Australia etc. systems is that legislation is kept up to date and is accessible to the public. In respect of EC261 you have an 18 year old law much of which has been effectively rewritten by the ECJ even after its lack of clarity required extensive Interpretative Guidelines yet the public has no access to EC261 as modified by the ECJ. It is a messy hodgepodge of judgments, some on broad points, some on narrow points. How is that good? The Regulation badly needs redrafting.

          • meta says:

            That’s not true. All ECJ rulings are available online on e-curia website, you just have to use search function. If you don’t, educate yourself on the basics of searching on the internet. And also after each major ruling, there is usually a press release being circulated around. People can be well informed if they want to be.

            It’s precisely good because of the things you mentioned. It is constantly updated which makes it alive and it gives power some power back to people to go to the ECJ and do something about the laws that they are not happy with it. Some people do, some people don’t.

          • JDB says:

            @meta yes, I and others can search for each judgment (and thanks for the reference to my incompetence) but you need to know what you are looking for; the ordinary citizen has no clue. The legislation.gov.uk site has the text of the current law and its original enactment. There is no equivalent for EU laws and that is why there are endless questions about the Regulation. Of course the absence of such information makes it easier to conceal the shocking extent to which the ECJ legislates and demonstrates why EC261 urgently needs to be rewritten and it will be per EC chatter.

          • meta says:

            @JDB This is a pure lie, but not surprising from you really given that you repeatedly lie and lie. Please go and educate yourself before you spit such nonsense.

  • Jimbo says:

    Vote Tory to get screwed. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a turkey voting for Xmas

    • JDB says:

      And Labour will lead us to Shangri-La?

      • dk says:

        Boring Labour is good. Much better than Tory race to the bottom.

        • VinZ says:

          Politics doesn’t need to be a circus all the time, a PM doesn’t need to be a clown every single time. Boring is good sometimes.

      • Panda Mick says:

        I’d be happy if it lead us to a premier inn. Right now we’ve got the hostel full of junkies, with rats and cockroaches.

      • John says:

        Is that you, Jacob Rees Mogg?

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