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Passengers come first in UK airport shake-up

The UK government has unveiled plans for a radical overhaul of Britain’s airports that aims to put consumer improvements at the heart of all decision making.
Under the new plans, the Civil Aviation Authority, has been given a primary duty of promoting passengers’ interests while Passenger Focus, the organisation that champions the interests of rail and bus users, will take on a similar role for airline passengers. It will also be given the task of ensuring airports meet their environmental responsibilities.The proposed reform is the latest attempt to shake up the UK’s airports industry, which will include next week the demand from the Competition Commission for the break-up of the BAA monopoly of London and Scottish airports.
Transport secretary Geoff Hoon said: “I want to put passengers at the heart of how our airports are run. This will help ensure that we get the most efficient and competitive aviation sector possible.”
The CAA said the three-tier licensing system will allow it to adapt the regulatory regime and take swifter action to address service quality issues.
Harry Bush, the CAA’s director of economic regulation, said: “Giving the CAA a primary duty to passengers reflects the growing consensus that passengers need to be put at the heart of airport regulation. It is also important to maximise the benefits for passengers from the upcoming sale of Gatwick - and possibly Stansted - by supporting the increase in competition for passengers and airlines with a flexible and clear regulatory framework.”
However the plans have already come under attack from the aviation industry.
Andy Harrison, chief executive of easyJet said the CAA “lacks the resources, expertise and above all credibility to be an effective regulator.”
He added that it would be “a high risk strategy” to put so much more regulatory power into such an unproven structure.
British Airways said there should be tough sanctions in the event of serious performance failures with the ultimate sanction being the withdrawal of the licence itself. “Over-charging combined with poor operational performance must be a thing of the past,” it said.