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Clause 18 - Licence conditions

Part of Civil Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:00 pm on 1st March 2012.

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Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Shadow Minister (Transport) 1:00 pm, 1st March 2012

Sir Roger, it is a pleasure to see you back in the Chair this afternoon.

Amendments 18 to 20 cover significant issues that we shall raise while obviously acknowledging the contents of clauses 83 onwards, in respect of the need to solicit information and publish it for passengers. These amendments are designed to require the publication of information as part of the licence arrangements.

Amendment 18 suggests that there should be annual passenger surveys, covering passenger experiences at border control, with baggage handling and in dealing with adverse weather conditions, and that these surveys should be published. I know that the Government are opposed to “targets”, but I also know that some Departments have moved to “goals”, and there is clearly a need to measure performance somehow, to determine whether progress is being made.

Gatwick already publishes its own indicators. Our view is that it should be a requirement for all airports to publish indicators. Interestingly, the Gatwick text that I have with me does not seem to cover the immigration element at arrivals, but the information that Gatwick publishes on its website indicates the name of the airline, the handling agent, the time taken for the first bag to come off—whether it is within 20 minutes or not—the time taken for the last bag to come off, and the performance of flights for airlines and handlers. Although the extract from the website indicates that Gatwick publishes quite a degree of information, Kyran Hanks said, when he gave evidence to us last week:

“We have been actively discussing with UKBA the publication of its performance and we now have on our website the performance of UKBA”––[Official Report, Civil Aviation Public Bill Committee, 21 February 2012; c. 9, Q7.]

I do not seem to have that information with me now. Nevertheless, Gatwick is some way down the road with the UK Border Agency, in terms of improving transparency.

I should introduce a slightly cautionary note: obviously, not all airports, airlines and journeys are the same, so we cannot compare somebody flying long haul to Heathrow with somebody arriving at City airport on a European business flight. One will have hand baggage, while the other will have a number of cases, so the times involved will be entirely different. In a strict sense, therefore, comparisons would not necessarily be fair, and consideration would need to be given to the possibility of commercial distortion of the figures by airlines trying to take advantage of a comparison of their profile with that of other airlines.

Amendment 19 would require the development of passenger welfare plans. When the Labour Government experienced problems in 2009-10, they appointed David Quarmby, and I will cover some of his recommendations shortly. Amendment 20 would require the licence holder to provide support for stranded passengers.

In amendment 18, we seek to ensure that we have efficient airports, and that is what the Government want to ensure, too. That means that we need to identify the passenger experience at airports, and to require airports to produce reports. During the evidence sessions, we heard that airports have only minority contact with passengers, so they are not totally responsible for the experience of passengers going through terminals—they are pretty much agents. Putting the onus on airports to compile and produce data would, however, empower them, along with the airlines and UKBA, and I will come back to that later.

Most passengers believe that the airports are in charge, but as Andrew Harrison, who spoke on behalf of the Manchester Airports Group, told us in his evidence, on page 16 of the report,

“When you look at the whole end-to-end journey…we manage only three of the, I think, 13 touch points…and two of those are in car parks and one is in security—the rest is a third party.”––[Official Report, Civil Aviation Public Bill Committee, 21 February 2012; c. 16, Q20.]

I must confess that it was a bit of a surprise to me that airports had so little contact with passengers.