protecting traveller rights

As Heathrow imposes a daily cap of 100,000 passengers, forcing airlines to reduce the number of services they operate to and from Europe’s busiest airport, the results have been thousands of cancelled flights and many more disgruntled travellers.

Considering London Heathrow handled 80.9 million passengers annually in 2019, or a daily average of 219,000, the cap represents greater than a 50% cut at a time when the airport claims to have 70% of ground handling resources in place.

Recognising this and other causes of disruption to travellers, on 18th July the British government launched a new ‘Aviation Passenger Charter‘ to protect passengers, by ensuring that they are aware of their rights if they are confronted with issues when travelling.

The BTA (Business Travel Association), of whom Gray Dawes are an active member and our CEO, Suzanne Horner, is the Chair,  have had direct input into the content of this Charter, through regular attendance at numerous meetings with the DfT.

This charter has become a necessity considering the significant disruption dominating the industry in recent months and it sets out what passengers need to know about their rights and responsibilities when flying. By breaking down the journey into stages from planning a trip through to returning back to the UK, it covers the expectations from the service providers at every touchpoint of the journey, and what the passenger can expect in the event of something going wrong.

We welcome this charter as a positive step in renewing the confidence for UK passengers, giving them additional peace of mind to travel, whether for holidays or business.

And remember, for less than the cost of a cappuccino, you can add StaySafe to every Gray Dawes Travel booking. Stay Safe is the indispensable traveller security feature built-in to our booking tool, YourTrip. Tailored specifically to an individual’s travel itinerary, ongoing destination updates are delivered directly to the traveller via email and mobile messaging. These include destination alerts, flight cancellations and notifications and changes to border immigration requirements as well as COVID restrictions.

Aviation Passenger Charter: Summary

The Aviation Passenger Charter sets out what you, as a passenger, need to know about your rights and responsibilities when flying.

The charter breaks down your journey into stages, to help give you the information you need to:

  • plan and book your trip
  • travel to and through the airport
  • take your flight abroad
  • return to the UK
  • get special assistance to help you travel

It also covers what you can reasonably expect from your airline, travel agent, tour operator and airport, and what you can expect if things go wrong.

Booking and before you travel

Your airline, travel agent or tour operator must provide you with clear and easy to understand information on the conditions of your travel at the point of booking. You should check these carefully.

Airlines and travel agents selling flight tickets must make clear the full price for all mandatory charges, such as taxes, at the time of booking. They should make clear any additional costs for optional extras. For example, for luggage allowance or seat selection.

If you have booked a package that includes a flight (such as flight and accommodation or flight and car hire) you will also have both package and ATOL protection.

Take your ATOL certificate with you.

During the journey

Disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility are entitled to special assistance from the airport and airline, free of charge. This includes assistance with moving through the airport, boarding the aircraft and getting into your seat, during the flight, getting off the aircraft, and transferring between flights. You do not have to provide medical evidence to prove your need for special assistance.

You are entitled to carry medical and mobility equipment (up to 2 pieces) free of charge, in addition to your permitted baggage allowance.

Airlines are responsible for communicating essential information regarding flight safety in an accessible format for example Braille, audio or large print.

3. If things go wrong

The information below is only relevant to flights covered by UK law. To be covered, your flight must either:

  • depart from an airport in the UK on any airline
  • arrive at an airport in the UK on an EU or UK airline, or
  • arrive at an airport in the EU on a UK airline



If you experience flight delays or cancellation, or you are denied boarding, airlines must provide you with information about your rights, including when you are entitled to assistance, a refund and compensation.


Care and support

If your flight was cancelled or you were denied boarding and you are waiting for an alternative flight, or there is a long delay (at least 2 hours) to your flight, the airline must provide you with care and support, such as meals and refreshments.

If the cancellation or delay means an overnight stay, you are entitled to hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and accommodation.


Flight delays

If your flight arrives your final destination more than 3 hours late, and the delay has been caused by the airline, you are entitled to compensation. The amount you are entitled to depends on the length of the flight and is detailed in the full charter.

Compensation is not due if the delay is due to circumstances outside of the airline’s control. Examples of exceptional circumstances include suspension of flights due to bad weather, natural disasters, delays due to air traffic control decisions, birds striking an aircraft or political instability.


Flight cancellations

If your flight is cancelled by the airline, you are entitled to a choice between:

  • a refund, paid within 7 days, and a return flight to the first point of departure at the earliest opportunity
  • to be re-routed under comparable conditions

If you flight was cancelled within 14 days of your scheduled departure time, you may also be entitled to compensation. This depends on the amount of notice you were given of the cancellation, and the options available for an alternative flight.

This is detailed in the full charter.

Compensation is not due if the cancellation is due to circumstances outside of the airline’s control, such as bad weather, natural disasters, delays due to air traffic control decisions, birds striking an aircraft or political instability.


Denied boarding

If you are not allowed onto the flight you have booked, for example due to the airline overbooking, the airline must let you choose between:

  • a refund within 7 days
  • to be re-routed under comparable conditions

You will be also entitled to compensation.

This is different to being denied boarding on reasonable grounds, such as disruptive behaviour or incorrect documentation.


Lost, damaged or delayed baggage

Airlines are liable for lost or damaged baggage, based on the value of your luggage.

If your baggage is delayed whilst you are away from home, most airlines will reimburse you for the essentials you need, but check with your airline.


Damage to or loss of mobility equipment

If your wheelchair or other mobility equipment is lost or damaged during travel, the airline must provide you compensation. You may also be provided with temporary equipment, or arrangements made for your onward transport.


Airline or package organiser insolvency

If you have ATOL protection and are yet to travel, you may be able to apply to the CAA for a refund under the ATOL scheme. If you are abroad at the time of the failure, the CAA will help you in returning home to the UK.

If you do not have ATOL protection, and you booked using a credit card and the payment was over £100, you may have financial loss protection under the Consumer Credit Act.

Alternatively, this may be covered by your travel insurance.


Resolving issues and how to complain

If you feel your airline or airport has not met their responsibilities, you should raise a complaint with them directly via their website, phone lines or app.

If you have already complained to the airport or airline and are not satisfied with the response, you can refer your complaint to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provider if they are a member or if not, to the CAA or the Consumer Council for flights to and from Northern Ireland.


We’re bringing you all the latest business travel trends and topics from our very own industry experts.

Each bite-size session will offer insight, how-to’s and top tips on subjects such as building traveller confidence, implementing a sustainable travel policy, creating successful corporate travel programmes and more!

To help you navigate the changes of business travel, we’ve created the brand-new Traveller Toolkit. This invaluable online resource is packed full of easy-to-use guides and checklists for every stage of every journey. We detail exactly what you need to know and do before, during and after your trip in a post-pandemic, post Brexit world.

You can even check the travel restrictions and health status of your destination with our comprehensive COVID-19 Country Tracker, updated five times daily to ensure you have the very latest information to help keep you and your travellers safe.

Travel is changing. With common sense and a good TMC behind you, travellers can have the confidence to once again take to the skies. It’ll soon be back business as (un)usual.