Flight International online news 12:30 GMT : UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) models designed to predict the effects of a budget carrier collapse have shown that a centralised administration scheme could repatriate affected passengers more cheaply and cause less disruption to their trip abroad.

Developed as part of the CAA’s work on financial protection for travellers, the models accurately predicted the after-effects of the collapse of budget airline EUjet in July which affected 39,000 passengers – of whom 12,000 were left abroad at the time.

“The model indicated that, in a small airline failure, passengers would be able to repatriate themselves but at a higher cost and, in some cases, with a delay,” says the CAA’s consumer-protection division.

“[It] showed that, if a managed scheme with a central administrator was in place, repatriation could have been organised more cheaply, at no cost to the passengers, and they would have been able to travel as intended with little or no disruption to their holiday – and therefore less anxiety.”

EUjet, which operated from Kent International Airport outside London, ceased flying on 26 July. The CAA says that information on EUjet’s collapse was slow to filter through to passengers, particularly those overseas. There was no central information source and little assistance available to aid repatriation.

A CAA survey of affected passengers revealed that 40% mistakenly thought that they were protected through the UK’s Air Travel Organisers Licensing (ATOL) scheme, or similar, and a further 27% did not know at all that they had no financial protection.

While a number of budget airlines offered special fares to stranded passengers these offers expired a week after the airline’s demise, with about 5,000 EUjet passengers still left abroad. This, combined with the limits of the rescuing carriers’ networks and other restrictions, meant that only 16% of passengers were able to take advantage of the special-offer fares.

Analysis indicates that EUjet passengers paid an average of £100 ($176) per person for flights and ground transfers in order to return from their holiday. The inability to return to the airport of departure added a “significant additional cost” compared with the average repatriation flight fare of £81.

“Although it cannot be said that passengers were stranded as a result of EUjet’s failure – not least because of the efforts made by other airlines – repatriation was, in most cases, expensive and inefficient due to the absence of a centralised administrator or information source,” says the CAA.

Details of the EUjet assessment have emerged as the UK CAA seeks to provide better protection for holiday travellers who book their flights directly with airlines. A proposal to impose a levy on air fares has today, however, been rejected by the UK Government.

Source: Flight International