It Is Time Airlines Are Held Accountable.

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Airlines have gotten too used to treating customers in an appalling manner, throwing out any semblance of customer service and acting in any way they wish with impunity for decades. It is time they are reminded that they are not a law unto themselves and paying customers do come first.

It’s a familiar story heard day after day in every airport across the world, flights are cancelled or delayed and airlines simply shrug their shoulders and tell customers tough luck. Passengers are bumped off flights because the airline oversold the seats and act as if the customer is the problem when they complain. Airlines consistently fail to live up to their legal obligations and deny passengers their rights when they refuse to rebook them on the next flight, offer assistance or give them their money back, and quite often outright lie about what legal obligations they have. And if you want a refund or the compensation for any delay or cancellation, it is common practice to simply ignore passengers until they go away, or until the solicitors get involved.

Have an issue on board the aircraft or disagree with the crew for any issue whatsoever? Good luck with that! Crew have the ultimate power in that tiny little bubble between the airport and the cabin and don’t they know it! I’m not saying all crew are the same, but there is certainly an abundance of those who enjoy wielding that tiny bit of power more than a copycat Hitler at a PTA meeting. Has everyone forgotten about the David Dao incident on a United flight? Passengers are all to often treated like criminals on board an aircraft and are subject to cramped conditions that cattle aren’t even subject to. Asking for a drink of water is often tantamount to Oliver Twist going up for some more gruel! You’ll get what you are given and you’ll be damn grateful for it! Want to complain about any aspect of service to the customer service team? I think you’ll find the tiny department has no one actually working there, just a bot who will say ‘sorry to hear that, please DM us more details’, and then endlessly ignore you until you go away. Unless of course you get through to Ryanair’s customer service team who will happily just gaslight and insult you publicly for your troubles.

And that is before we get into the more serious transgressions of actually breaking the law, or at the very least thinking they are above it.

The recent scandal of budget airline Easyjet, and Ryanair to a slightly lesser extent, imposing its own passport validity rules in direct contradiction to the European Commission and UK border rules may have now been ‘resolved’, with the airline being forced to fall into line, but that doesn’t mean thousands of family’s trips and holidays haven’t been ruined because Janet at the gate decided that their passports weren’t valid when they clearly and legally were. Easyjet’s own website even had information that directly contradicted the actual rule!

For everyone’s information, the passport rules from the UK to the EU are pretty simple. It has to have been issued in the last ten years and have 3 months left on it from the date you leave your destination country. Not six, or nine, or any other number the airline was making up on the spot.

And what about airlines imposing their own mask mandates regardless of what was happening in their home countries? Most airlines around the world kept this unscientific and illegal mandate long after their host, and many other countries, dropped all requirements, which is bad enough in and of itself and eventually deemed unlawful by a US judge, but in all that time airlines denied passengers their basic human rights, they actively broke discrimination legislation against passengers who were legally exempt, demanded ‘proof of exemption’ despite UK law stating that their was no such thing and no one had the right to ask, demand or challenge anyone about it, and in many cases acted in such an authoritarian and bullying manner that they stoked resentment and anger to the point flight altercations reached unprecedented levels. The finger pointing witch hunts even got so bad people were put on federal no fly lists in the US for non compliance! This is very quickly being rolled back now that they have left themselves open to legal action since the whole mandate was deemed unlawful, but still. They did it, and they thought they were right to do so.

This is so, so wrong. No company should have the right to treat customers this way with impunity.

Airlines are not a law unto themselves. They are not doing us a favour. They are a service, with paying customers, and should respect passengers as such.

Is The Tide Turning?

After the US mask mandate was ruled unlawful and airlines were given a warning shot that they simply cannot do as they please, the UK Transport Select Committee is finally calling for tougher action against airlines that refuse to comply with their legal obligations.

In its latest report, the TSC’s UK aviation: reform for take-off, bought in as a result of the Thomas Cook collapse in 2019, MPs have called for the CAA to do its job, protect consumer rights and force airlines to live up to their legal obligations to customers. This means no longer can airlines get away with lying to customers about their obligations or simply refusing to live up to them. In the long term, MPs are even calling for refunds to be full and automatic, instead of the customer having to go through a lengthy battle to get their money back, and for airlines to take more responsibility in protecting customers from the fallout of bankruptcies.

Now to be fair, the CAA themselves have argued that they want and need more powers, including the ability to fine airlines who don’t comply. But they are the CAA. The Civil. Aviation. Authority. The clue is in the name, you have the word authority right there! You have these powers already! Use them!

Now if you want to ask for more powers and the ability to make those fines punitive to the point airlines are terrified of receiving one then hey, I’m all for that! I would personally go even further and triple the amount of compensation passengers are allowed if airlines do cancel or delay flights. I know airlines hate the compensation rules already, but if you don’t want to pay out, simply offer the service you are selling and treat customers right! The airlines do need punishing, and all it would take is one or two high profile cases, or Ryanair being punished to the point of even O’Leary shutting his mouth for once, to ensure that this behaviour stops.

One thing is for certain, airlines can no longer be allowed to treat customers any way they like with impunity. They are not a law unto themselves. Hopefully the CAA have been put on notice to do their job now and the unlawful ruling in the US will be the wake up call the industry needs.

Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

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Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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