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Gatwick chaos 'a wake-up call'

15 April 2014 09:29

Gatwick Christmas Eve commotion should serve as wake-up call to other UK airports, MPs warn

Gatwick Christmas Eve commotion should serve as wake-up call to other UK airports, MPs warn

The chaotic scenes at Gatwick Airport last Christmas Eve should act as a "wake-up call" to airports across the UK, MPs have warned.

Passengers trying to get home for Christmas may have been anxiously reaching for their travel insurance documents during the commotion that is the focus of a new report published this week by the House of Commons Transport Committee.

More than 11,000 passengers were affected by delays and cancellations when the airport was hit by a power failure caused by flooding on December 24 last year.

The committee noted travellers reported a series of problems at the West Sussex airport, including a lack of adequate information to update them on what was happening as the events unfolded, a lack of clarity on who was in charge and inadequate access to toilets and drinking water.

"Disruption of whatever nature should be met with well-drilled plans, familiar to airport operators, airlines, and other contractors, which put passenger interests first," said the MPs.

The committee also identified a wider problem around "complex EU legislation" on passengers' rights to compensation when flights are cancelled.

"We recommend that Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) bring forward proposals by the autumn for improving the provision of information to passengers about their rights at times of disruption," it said.

"We also recommend that the Government push for amendment to the proposed new EU regulation on this issue to include electronic means of alert and information dissemination."

As she launched the report, committee chairman Louise Ellman said: "Passengers need accurate and consistent information, must be able to identify who is in charge during periods of disruption, and should have ready access to toilets and drinking water."

She called on the CAA to act if the airports do not, adding: "Passengers must also be promptly reimbursed for the extra costs they face as a consequence of disruption. It was clear from evidence to this inquiry that there is considerable scope for airlines to ensure passengers are far better informed about their rights."

Gatwick's own review of the Christmas Eve events concluded that the airport should appoint passenger champions at each of its terminals, with a focus on passenger welfare, and this suggestion has been welcomed by the MPs.

Other major UK airports should also put a similar system in place, the committee said.