Press release

New powers will put passengers first

Civil Aviation Authority single duty to promote interests of passengers.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


New powers which will put passengers at the heart of how the UK’s major airports are run have begun their passage through Parliament.

The Civil Aviation Bill - which had its first reading in Parliament today (19 January 2012) - will replace the current economic regulation duties of the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), with a single primary duty to promote the interests of passengers.

The bill will also give the CAA more flexibility to set performance measures at major airports, encourage investment in improvements and provide passengers and other airport users - such as those sending cargo by air - with more information about airline and airport performance.

Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers said:

The powers in this bill will put the needs of passengers clearly and unambiguously at the heart of how our major airports are run. They will help promote better public information about airline and airport performance and give the CAA more power to tackle the issues which matter to passengers. Under the new rules, the CAA will be able to intervene much more quickly when an airport is failing passengers, for example on winter preparedness.

The end result of these reforms will be a modern regulatory regime for our airports which is flexible, proportionate, targeted and effective, while unnecessary regulation and unnecessary intervention by central government will be removed.

Much of the legislation surrounding aviation dates back to the 1980s; airlines and airports have welcomed the government’s intent to update it. The bill is designed to modernise the key elements of how the industry is regulated and contribute to economic growth.

The bill also proposes that the costs of regulating aviation security should be covered by the aviation industry as happens with safety regulation. This will involve conferring certain aviation security functions, such as monitoring and enforcement, on the CAA which charges the industry for its activities. However, the responsibility for setting aviation security policy and making aviation security directions to the industry will remain with the Secretary of State for Transport. It is estimated that this move could save UK taxpayers over £4 million a year.

The Civil Aviation Bill also contains a clause which could enable the Secretary of State for Transport to make long-term changes to the ATOL holiday protection scheme. The clause provides the option to include holidays sold by airlines, which are currently exempt from the scheme, in the ATOL scheme. It also provides the power to bring holidays arranged on an ‘agent for the consumer’ basis into ATOL protection. Subject to Parliamentary process, the government would carry out a full consultation including an impact assessment on any regulations that could give effect to these powers. The government will shortly make a full announcement on ATOL reform, which will set out its decisions on the options for near-term reform as consulted on in summer 2011.

Notes to editors

The CAA currently has 4 duties for the purposes of economic regulation, they are:

  • to further the reasonable interests of users of airports within the UK, users being defined (in section 82 of the Airports Act) as airlines, passengers and other user of air transport services at the airport
  • to promote the efficient, economic and profitable operation of such airports
  • to encourage investment in new facilities at airports in time to satisfy anticipated demands by the users of such airports
  • to impose the minimum restrictions that are consistent with the performance by the CAA of its functions under those sections

In addition, the CAA is also required to take account of international obligations.

The proposals set out today will replace these with a single primary duty and a limited number of further duties - these are:

Primary duty

* to further the interest of consumers (that is passengers and owners of cargo both present and future), wherever appropriate by promoting competition  

Further duties

* to ensure that licence holders are able to finance the activities which are subject to the relevant licence obligations  
* to secure that all reasonable demands for airport services are met  
* to promote economy and efficiency on the part of licence holders in its provisions of airport services at regulated airports  
* to have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State for Transport  
* to have regard to any international obligation of the UK  
* to have regard to principles of better regulation  

The Transport Select Committee (TSC) has today published its report on the draft Civil Aviation Bill which was published in November 2011. The committee’s recommendations will be taken into consideration as the bill proceeds through Parliament. The department welcomes the TSC’s finding that they have found “general support from the aviation industry and the regulator for the measures proposed in the draft bill.” The committee has arranged to hear evidence on ATOL on 31 January and intends to report on this issue in due course.

Further information on the Civil Aviation Bill (including documents and progress).

Press enquiries: 020 7944 3108
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Public enquiries: 0300 330 3000

Published 19 January 2012