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Volume 493: debated on Friday 12 June 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport (1) what recent discussions his Department has had with the National Air Traffic Service on the merits of stacking flights over the sea; (278264)

(2) what recent discussions (a) he and (b) officials of his Department have had with the Civil Aviation Authority on the feasibility of stacking flights landing at UK airports over the sea.

Airspace planning and regulation is the responsibility of the independent regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The process for making changes to airspace is governed by the CAA’s airspace change process. Under this process it is for airspace change sponsors, mostly NATS, other air navigation services providers and airports, to develop and consult upon proposals. Detailed guidance is given on what impacts are to be taken into account, advice on methods to assess the relative impact of changes and who should be consulted. Informed by the consultation, the airspace change sponsor submits the proposal to the CAA’s directorate of airspace policy for assessment against regulatory requirements. In determining whether to accept or reject a proposal, the CAA’s process reflects the Secretary of State’s Directions and Guidance to the CAA on the exercise of its statutory duties and environmental objectives. Detailed information is available on the CAA’s website at:

As part of NATS’ on-going development of proposed changes to the area of airspace known as terminal control north, they are considering the location of, and procedures for arrivals routes and holds for Luton, Stansted and London City airports. Further details are available at: consultation.html

No airspace change proposal has been submitted to the CAA.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport (1) what recent progress has been made in the development of a universal consumer protection scheme for air travellers; and if he will make a statement; (279527)

(2) what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of provisions for the protection of passengers affected by the sudden financial collapse of an airline;

(3) with reference to the answer of 21 October 2008, Official Report, column 289W, on the XL Leisure Group, what steps have been taken to improve the experience of passengers in future airline or tour operator failures.

The Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL) scheme organised by the Civil Aviation Authority fully protects passengers on package holidays if their airline, or other travel company, become insolvent.

Passengers not on package holidays have two main options by which they can help protect themselves against airline insolvency if they so choose:

(i) purchasing tickets by credit card, which in most cases will provide at least refund of any ticket that cannot be used;

(ii) purchasing insurance against airline failure (available free-standing product or as part of some travel insurance policies).

The Department for Transport recognises the complexity for consumers of airline insolvency protection arrangements. To help address this, we have placed guidance for holiday makers about the options available on the Directgov website

This guidance was prepared in conjunction with the air transport industry and the Civil Aviation Authority. It is supplemented with an information campaign which has generated press articles.

The Department is now considering options for the reform of ATOL with a view to providing greater protection and clarity to consumers about what holidays are or are not covered by the scheme. A consultation is planned for later in 2009.

The Government have no plans to provide statutory financial protection for all flights. They carefully considered an option to this effect in 2005, but rejected it as being disproportionate to the risks faced by consumers.