Recent developments in Aviation - April 2018

By Simon Phippard

04-2018

Consumer protection in the event of airline and travel company failure remains an important issue with Member States obliged to implement the second Package Travel Directive by 1 July 2018. So far as airline insolvency is concerned, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) has announced an independent Airline Insolvency Review (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/airline-insolvency-review-to-examine-protection-for-air-passengers). The review is to report to the Secretary of State in the summer with a final report by the end of 2018.

The Department for Transport (DfT) published its 'Next steps' report in relation to the new Aviation Strategy for the UK on 7 April. The DfT acknowledges the benefits of airlines having large operating bases at airports, such as the economies of scale which can be passed onto passengers. However, it has said that it will explore whether the relationship between such airlines and the airports (specifically at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) could be harmful to consumers in the long term.  

The Aviation Strategy Next steps report also confirms recent reports of UK Government plans to review protection for disabled passengers (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43643593) and to publish plans to enhance transparency of fees and charges at the time of booking. The former follows a recent high profile incident affecting a disabled journalist; the latter has been work in progress within DfT and the CAA for a while. Formal policy proposals on the issues in the Next steps report are expected in autumn 2018 with a final Aviation Strategy in 2019.

The European Commission's review of the Airport Charges Directive has reached a general consultation (https://ec.europa.eu/info/consultations/public-consultation-charges-use-airport-infrastructure_en). The evaluation started in 2016 as a result of the Aviation Strategy and aimed to assess whether Directive 2009/12/EC is achieving its objectives, particularly on non-discrimination between users and transparency, and whether the mechanisms employed were appropriate. A targeted consultation took place in 2017 and a further targeted consultation on the potential impact is to take place in the first half of 2018. The general consultation runs in parallel until 26 June 2018. The original aim of a possible revision of the Directive in 2017 now looks most unlikely. 

In early March the Prime Minister announced that the UK intended to seek continued membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency (as well as of a number of other EU regulatory agencies), recognising that this would entail payment to the relevant budgets and some compromise on the UK's "red line" on ECJ jurisdiction. Shortly thereafter Donald Tusk announced his determination to avoid the "particularly absurd" disruption of flights between the UK and EU27 countries stating that discussions should start as soon as possible. We will see in due course whether that is consistent with reported remarks by the Commission's Director-General for Mobility and Transport the day before to the effect there must be a general framework in place before such sectoral discussions could start, and that there can be no cherry-picking.