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Airports must put passengers first says UK Government

9th March 2009 - 09:30 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Passengers' needs are to be put first under new measures designed to improve air passenger experience and the economic regulation of airports, unveiled today by UK Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon.

Under the plans, the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), will be given a new primary duty to promote the interests of passengers. Air passengers will also get a new champion - 'Passenger Focus' - who will represent them as they do for rail and bus users.

The CAA will also be given a new secondary duty to ensure that airports meet their environmental obligations. The CAA will not be asked to develop its own environmental policies but will be tasked with ensuring that the economic regulation of airports is consistent with existing environmental obligations placed on airports.

"I want to put passengers at the heart of how our airports are run," said Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon. "This will help ensure that that we get the most efficient and competitive aviation sector possible.

"The CAA has told us that their current duties lack clarity. They ask them to further the interests of both airlines and passengers, without saying who comes first. Today I am removing that lack of clarity - the passenger must come first.

"Passengers have told us that although they are broadly happy with their experience of airports, they want things like more seating areas, more toilets, better flight information and more baggage carousels open at busy times - these are the exactly the kind of issues that we will expect the CAA to address in discharging its new duty."

The new duties are part of a package which is designed to improve the economic regulation of UK airports. The measures have been developed based on the recommendations of a panel of independent experts, chaired by Professor Martin Cave, who were appointed in June 2008 to review the economic regulation of UK airports.

Other proposed measures announced today include:

* A switch to a new licensing regime for larger airports: licensing  - which is common in many regulated industries - allows greater flexibility than the current system and will enable the CAA to target regulatory activity where and when it is needed to protect the interests of consumers. There will be three tiers of licence which place varying levels of control on airports depending on their market power.

* New and streamlined appeal processes that will improve access to justice for those effected by regulatory decisions.

* Measures to improve outcomes for consumers by promoting the financial and operational resilience of airports, including a specific financing duty on CAA, and new licence conditions for larger airports

The measures are subject to a 12 week consultation which concludes on 1st June 2009.

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