On The Beach boss brands airlines' treatment of customers a 'disgrace'

On The Beach boss brands airlines' treatment of customers a 'disgrace'

Simon Cooper demands regulators step up to police the sector saying some airlines have a 'crazy amount of power' and industry reform is critical 

The boss of the UK’s biggest independent OTA has described the way airlines are treating customers as a “disgrace” and demanded more powers to enforce the law.

Simon Cooper, chief executive of On The Beach, issued a statement today after regulators warned they could take enforcement action if airlines don’t tackle the problems of flight cancellations this summer.

The bosses of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have sent a joint open letter to airlines about cancellations and refunds reminding airlines about their consumer law obligations.

It comes after several months of disruption at airports, which have struggled to recruit staff to deal with rising passenger numbers as travel restrictions ended.

Cooper said: “We’ve said before and we’ll say again; the way some of the airlines are treating their customers with late cancellations and delayed refunds, is a disgrace.

“While this joint letter is a step in the right direction, placing the emphasis on the airlines to sort their mess out is clearly not working.  As the aviation regulator, the CAA must be given the power and tools to enforce the rules and hold airlines who are blatantly ignoring the law, to account.

“The chaos has to stop. I’d take a guess that if hefty fines were handed out to airlines who break the law, we’d see consumers getting a much better experience.

“We’ve been vocal about the crazy amount of power some of these airlines have over hard-working people, and it’s because there is no competition on some routes and airlines can abuse their power at will, seemingly with zero consequence.

“Industry reform is absolutely critical and it needs to happen now. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) must step up, police the industry properly and prioritise a market review.”

The CAA said it will continue to monitor airlines’ practices and consumers’ experiences, adding: “If we receive evidence that consumers continue to experience these serious problems, the CAA, supported by the CMA, will consider further action, including enforcement.”

The letter, signed by CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty and Sarah Cardell, CMA general counsel, said: “We recognise that some airlines have performed better than others and we acknowledge and welcome some recent improvements, for example flight cancellations being announced earlier.

“However, we are concerned that consumers could experience significant harm unless airlines meet their obligations and minimise flight disruptions throughout the summer and beyond.

“It is critical that airlines take action to ensure consumers have a positive experience. Consumers must be kept informed of the status of their flights and made aware of their rights, so they can assess their options sufficiently in advance of travel.

“Where flights are cancelled, consumers should be supported and their rights upheld to ensure they get the best outcomes.”

Key concerns outlined in the letter include airlines selling more tickets for flights than they can reasonably expect to supply; not always fully satisfying obligations to offer consumers re-routing in the event of cancellation; and failing to give consumers sufficiently clear and upfront information about their rights on cancellation.

The letter said refunds and compensation are generally being processed and paid “in a timely fashion” but added: “We are concerned to ensure that payment delays and other issues do not begin to emerge over summer as more flights are cancelled.”

The letter urges airlines to keep their schedules under review throughout the summer and beyond.