Efforts to combat the virus, such as quarantine, testing regimens, and travel prohibitions, wreaked havoc on the industry.
According to a report by the Commons Transport Committee, the Civil Aviation Authority should have “more teeth” to be able to sanction airlines that do not provide refunds.
Ministers were also urged to present an aviation recovery strategy by June.
After the virus spread over the world in early 2020, international travel was banned or severely restricted, and many customers’ flights and vacations were canceled.
Passengers were still subjected to procedures such as Covid testing, quarantine, and passenger locator forms when travel could resume.
Furthermore, the government’s traffic light system for categorizing overseas countries meant that flying into the UK from certain destinations was still prohibited, with changes to the “red list” occurring every few weeks during the final months of 2021, forcing people to cancel trips on short notice or return home early.
The Commons committee recommends that the regulator, the CAA, be given the right to impose financial penalties on airlines that do not fully compensate customers.
It points out that some Ryanair passengers are still waiting for compensation four years after being disrupted by a 2018 pilot strike, due to the airline’s legal battle with the CAA.
A bill to protect consumers, employees, and taxpayers from airline insolvency should be proposed in the next session of parliament, according to the committee.
Consumer Director at the CAA, Paul Smith said, “We have regularly asked for stronger consumer enforcement powers, including the ability to impose fines on airlines. This would allow us to take faster action when appropriate and bring our powers in line with other sectoral regulators.”
The MPs applauded the minister’s promises to only impose travel restrictions in “extreme circumstances” in the future and said the government “must compensate the industry for the economic loss suffered” if such measures were reimposed.
Huw Merriman, the Transport Committee chairman said, “Now that government has removed all coronavirus-related restrictions on international travel, ministers must get on with protecting the sector against future economic shocks.”
According to a report released last week by the National Audit Office, there was no system in place to evaluate the effectiveness of measures such as the traffic light systems, self-isolation, testing, quarantine hotels, or passenger locator forms.
After long delays and security issues caused too many people to miss flights over Easter, consumer group Which? said the CAA should have more power.
Following the pandemic, the travel sector has struggled to recruit, train, and security-check new employees quickly enough to keep up with rising demand, resulting in long lines at airports as international traffic resumed this year.
CEO of Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade said, “We can’t lose sight of the fact the sector has been through its worst-ever crisis and it will take several years to deal with the debt airlines had to take on to make it through the pandemic with no passengers.”