A campaign by Jet2 executive chairman Philip Meeson to change the way complaints about airline delays of more than three hours are handled was highlighted yesterday.
The Sunday Times featured his demand for an overhaul of compensation for flight delays.
Meeson is proposing a new independent service in a move that pits him against the Civil Aviation Authority, which wants all airlines to join one of two voluntary complaints services – called alternative dispute resolution (ADR) schemes.
The aviation regulator also runs a service called the Passenger Advice and Complaints Team (Pact), but encourages airlines to sign up to one of the other schemes.
Jet2 is the only large airline that refuses to sign up to the two ADR schemes because it believes they are poorly run.
The carrier believes this means many flights that should not qualify for compensation do so because complaints handlers don’t understand complicated aviation issues.
Instead, it directs consumer complaints to Pact or allows disputed cases to be resolved by magistrates or High Court judges.
Jet2 says it pays out in 70% of delayed-flight cases in the first instance and only 2% are dealt with by the courts.
Meeson is now proposing a system under which individual flights would be assessed rather than the claim of each passenger.
This would mean that in the event of one passenger on a flight winning compensation for a delay, everyone else on the same aircraft would automatically be able to claim that compensation.
This would cut the cost of handling cases.
But Meeson also wants a more robust system for dealing with complaints, arguing that the assessments should be carried out by a qualified third party who is an expert in aviation issues.
He believes this would help in cases of delays caused by “extraordinary circumstances”.
The rules say an airline does not have to pay compensation if a flight has been delayed for reasons that could not have been avoided even if all necessary measures had been taken. Birds damaging aircraft and air traffic control strikes are two such incidents.
However, technical problems and bad weather are open to interpretation and can be a particular problem if a late arrival has a knock-on effect to the scheduling of other flights. Because these issues are complicated, Meeson believes many airlines are unfairly judged by complaints handlers to have refused a claim, the newspaper reported.
A single delayed flight can cost his business £75,000 if every passenger puts in a claim.
Meeson said: “The cost means that these claims have to be taken seriously. We felt that the ADR providers currently do not tend to have many people who are qualified . . . adjudicating individual claims.”
He added: “The reason why we currently go to court on some cases is that both sides give their opinion. They go [into great detail] about the circumstances of that and the court will deliver a judgment. It is much more rigorous.
“We think it could be done much better, and simply. A claim is decided on a flight basis whether it is due for compensation in accordance with legislation. The reasons are given, we should have an opportunity to give any particulars and a decision is made.
“If it is done on a flight basis then it will be a higher quality of decision, we feel. And it could be all done free for consumers.
“Of course we don’t want to go to court with our customers. But if you have it on a per aeroplane basis . . . everyone is on the same flight and everyone is in the same circumstances.”
The CAA said: “The ADR service allows passengers who have been unable to resolve a complaint with an airline to get an independent and legally binding decision.
“Our role is to monitor the performance of ADR providers. We believe ADR is good for UK consumers.
“Where an airline is not signed up to [ADR], passengers can escalate their complaint to Pact or pursue their claim through the small claims process.”