The UK Civil Aviation Authority has found airlines have upped their game when it comes to providing refunds in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The body has been reviewing the refund policies and performance of UK airlines and three of the largest international operators to the UK.
A further five international airlines were included due to the level of consumer feedback and concerns that refunds were not being paid during the coronavirus pandemic.
At the start of the process, some airlines were not paying refunds, with others facing potential backlogs of numerous months.
While recognising the coronavirus pandemic was an “unprecedented situation” for the aviation industry, the government organisation worked to protect consumer rights and to influence airlines to change their processes and practices in order to improve performance in providing refunds.
As such, the CAA now has evidence that shows that since it launched its review, and its wide-ranging engagement programme with airlines, all UK airlines are now “paying refunds”.
Call centre wait times have reduced, in some cases significantly, and customer service messaging has provided greater clarity on consumers’ rights to a refund for cancelled flights.
Commenting on the review, Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “The airlines we have reviewed have responded by significantly enhancing their performance, reducing their backlogs, and improving their processing speeds in the interests of consumers.
“Although we have taken into account the serious operational challenges many airlines have faced, we have been clear that customers cannot be let down, and that airlines must pay refunds as soon as possible.
“There is still work to do.
“We have required commitments from airlines as they continue the job of paying customer refunds.
“Should any airline fall short of the commitments they have made, we will not hesitate to take any further action where required.”
The review was based on the CAA’s own investigations, as well as information provided by consumers across email and social media, as well as through consumer bodies including the Competition & Markets Authority, the Northern Ireland Consumer Council and Which?.
The CAA investigated airlines’ policies and practices to establish whether they were placing barriers in the way of consumers requesting refunds, through unclear messaging, difficult to navigate customer services and under-resourced call centres.
The review, however, found that a number of airlines were not performing adequately.
The body has gained immediate commitments from these airlines to improve their performance and the time taken to provide refunds to consumers, without requiring enforcement action, the CAA argued.