Sun | Nov 29, 2020

Competition watchdog studying how COVID has affected airline customers

Published:Sunday | October 25, 2020 | 12:09 AM

As airlines across the globe ground planes or otherwise cancel flights as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Caricom Competition Commission, CCC, has launched a market study to determine how persons in the region have been affected by the disruptions.

A questionnaire to that affect has been published on the website of Jamaica’s Fair Trading Commission, FTC, seeking to collect information from airline customers about their awareness of flight cancellation or refund policies, experiences claiming refunds due to cancellations as a result of COVID-19, as well as factors that influence their demand for airline flights.

Competition Bureau Chief at the FTC, Dr Kevin Harriott, said the local competition watchdog’s role in the process is to facilitate data collection from the Jamaican market.

“We are merely assisting them to gather the data,” he said. “We will be posting the consumer survey on our website, and we will also be seeking to administer other instruments to the airports, airlines, and travel agencies. So we are helping them get the information from the Jamaican market.”

Harriott said that after the study, the Caricom Competition Commission may want to advocate for changes in policies regarding cancellations.

The CCC said three concerns motivated the market study: customer experiences with flight cancellations due to COVID-19, airline-ticket pricing, and the legal and regulatory framework that governs competition among airlines operating in the region as well as consumer protection for regional airline customers.

A key data-gathering component of the market study is the online survey targeting airline customers in the 15-member Caricom bloc, which is available on the websites of participating national competition and consumer authorities as well as ministries responsible for competition and consumer protection in each member state, the commission said.

“Your participation will help the CCC gather information needed to identify potential competition and consumer-protection issues in the scheduled air- transport sector,” the agency said.

“Any critical issue identified will be addressed in a coordinated and proactive way by the regional community for the benefit of airline customers and the scheduled air-transport sector,” it added.