Doubts have been raised about the effectiveness of plans to shake up UK airport regulation by giving the Civil Aviation Authority more power.
Under the plans designed to reform the framework for regulating airports, the CAA will be given a new primary duty to promote the interests of passengers.
The authority will also be given a supplementary financing duty to help drive passenger focused investment.
It will also be granted new and more effective powers to take action against airports that underperform and new powers to investigate and take action against anti-competitive behaviour.
But a new remit for consumer group Passenger Focus to represent air passengers as previously proposed has been dropped.
“The Government believes that it is important to have strong passenger representation but that this is not the time to be make additional structural changes which will add to the regulatory burden on industry.
“It will therefore be exploring options for strengthening existing passenger representation arrangements,” the Department for Transport said.
The proposals unveiled by transport secretary Philip Hammond would also see a switch to a new regulatory licensing regime.
This will allow regulation to be tailored to meet the requirements of individual airports, rather than the same conditions being applied to all regulated airports.
This will enable the CAA to better target regulatory activity where and when it is needed to protect the interests of consumers, according to the DfT.
But easyJet led criticism of the planned measures, saying that all the coalition government was doing was implementing the “flawed plans” of its predecessor.
The airline’s head of community and public affairs Oliver Aust said: “These proposals place too much reliance on the CAA the getting it right, without it facing any real checks and balances.
“Delivering better airports means ensuring they are built around the needs of passengers.
“The proposals do not create a framework for this to be achieved. We also question why this proposal has been issued, when the South East Airport taskforce has only just been set up and asked to look at delivering better airports.”
Hammond said that the way airports are regulated was in “urgent need” of reform.
“The current economic regulation legislation dates from 1986, when the aviation sector looked very different from today,” he said.
“We must now put passengers at the heart of how our airports are run. We have already announced that we do not support the building of new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.
“We want to make those airports better, not bigger and that is exactly what these measures will do.
“These changes will help drive passenger-focused investment in airports – such as in new baggage handling equipment or building new modern facilities – and they will also allow economic regulation to be used in a more targeted way and remove unnecessary bureaucracy.”