THE UK Government has forced London airports Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted to refund more than £530,000 to airlines after failing to meet operational targets that were designed to improve customer service. The biggest offender in June 2011 was Heathrow, which has been forced to pay almost £440,000 after it missed targets to provide sufficient departure seating at Terminal 3 and for failing to achieve 95% pier service at Terminal 5. A technical fault on one of the shuttles at Gatwick led to a £61,000 rebate, while Stansted reportedly failed to provide sufficient passenger sensitive equipment, such as lifts, escalators and travelators, leading to a £30,000 fine.
Under the service quality rebate (SQR) scheme, introduced by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in 2003, the airports must meet a set of customer service and equipment targets each month, covering areas such as security queuing times, operation of jetties, cleanliness and arrival baggage reclaim. Airports can be forced to refund up to 7% of the annual charges levied against airlines, but can also qualify for bonuses where targets are exceeded.
Whilst its North Terminal has consistently achieved its targets, Gatwick has been fined several times within the last 12 months for problems at its South Terminal.
“Our priority under new ownership, and through the delivery of the £1 billion investment programme, is to create a more passenger-focussed airport with a reputation for excellent customer service,” said a Gatwick Airport spokesperson. “In April this year we hit, for the first time in over two years, the way-finding target in the South Terminal. This follows an 18-month campaign of reviewing, through the eyes of a passenger, the many thousands of signs displayed across the airport campus and de-cluttering the space, putting in place bigger, clearer signage. In May we met every single service target and are now earning more bonuses than we are paying rebates.”
A CAA spokesperson added: “Our SQR scheme is designed to incentivise Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted to focus on improving their service delivery. There is a broad consensus that it has helped to achieve this while passengers, airlines and the airports themselves have benefited as a result.”