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Airport chaos acts as wake-up call

Crowd of people at an airport11/4/14

By Ian Barnsley

MPs say all of the country's airports must learn from the passenger complaints made during the Christmas Eve chaos at Gatwick Airport.

Flooding at the West Sussex base caused power outages, delays and cancellations on December 24 last year, affecting more than 11,000 people who were heading home or away for Christmas.

The House of Commons Transport Committee has now completed its report into the problems at Gatwick.

It highlights passenger complaints about poor and inconsistent information on what was going on; confusion over who was in charge of the situation and insufficient food and water.

It said those who were stranded at the airport had a lack of clarity over what expenses they were entitled to, especially if they needed to get on other flights.

Travel insurance claims

Those with travel insurance may have been able to claim for some losses.

"The problems at Gatwick at Christmas Eve should be a wake-up call for airports across the UK to get on top of operational resilience issue," the report reads.

"Disruption of whatever nature should be met with well-drilled plans, familiar to airport operators, airlines, and other contractors, which put passenger interests first."

"We recommend that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) bring forward proposals by the autumn for improving the provision of information to passengers about their rights at times of disruption.

"We also recommend that the government push for amendment to the proposed new EU regulation on this issue to include electronic means of alert and information dissemination."

'Passengers must be promptly reimbursed'

Louise Ellman, the chairman of the committee, said: "Passengers need accurate and consistent information, must be able to identify who is in charge during periods of disruption, and should have ready access to toilets and drinking water.

"If our largest airports cannot demonstrate they can look after passengers' interests in this way then the CAA must act.

"Passengers must also be promptly reimbursed for the extra costs they face as a consequence of disruption.

"It was clear from evidence to this inquiry that there is considerable scope for airlines to ensure passengers are far better informed about their rights when flights are delayed or cancelled and how to enforce these rights."

Gatwick's own review of what happened on Christmas Eve highlighted the need for passenger champions at terminals whose role it is to look after the welfare of passengers.

The committee welcomed the idea and suggested all other UK airports should do the same.


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