The UAE’s Emirates and Etihad are among five carriers facing enforcement action from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) after being accused of denying passengers compensation for delayed flights.
In a report published yesterday the CAA said the group, which also includes American Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines, confirmed that they do not pay compensation to passengers who experience a delay on the first leg of a flight causing them to miss a connection and arrive more than three hours late.
Under European rules, passengers are legally entitled to compensation if they arrive at the final destination of their journey more than three hours late – including connecting flights – unless it is due to extraordinary circumstances.
The CAA said these rights apply to any flight departing an EU airport regardless of the nationality of an airline and it had taken action after repeated efforts to get the airlines to change their policies.
“The airlines’ refusal to pay compensation in these instances fails to meet the legal passenger rights requirements for flight disruption,” it said.
“This is an important issue for passengers – the CAA estimates that over 200,000 passengers each year travelling on these airlines could be at risk of missing their onward connection and thereby being delayed by over three hours at their final destination.”
Speaking to The National, An Etihad spokesperson said the airline had been engaged in “constructive dialogue with the authority on the issue over several months.
“Therefore, before even completing the dialogue, we find the CAA’s approach wholly ‘unprofessional and unacceptable’ to publicly blame Etihad Airways for infringements to passengers’ rights which we unreservedly deny.”
The airline also said its own internal review the airline “categorically” stated it had not contravened the law.
Emirates was the most complained about airline for non-payment of compensation on connecting flights, according to CAA data. While it found that no airlines other than Turkish had implemented alternative dispute resolution systems to give passengers quick, independent and binding decisions on their disputes.
The CAA called for all of the other airlines to implement a similar complaint service as soon as possible. It is now reportedly seeking signed commitments from the airlines to bind them to make changes and could seek a court order to force them.
“Airlines’ first responsibility should be looking after their passengers, not finding ways in which they can prevent passengers upholding their rights,” said Richard Moriarty, director of consumers and markets at the CAA.”
“So it’s disappointing to see a small number of airlines continuing to let a number of their passengers down by refusing to pay them the compensation they are entitled to.”
The announcement came following a review of policies at 31 airlines operating in the UK that focussed on care and assistance during disruption, compensation for missed connections, denied boarding and downgrading.