The Role of the Passenger

By | Category: Travel rumblings

What is the role of the passenger in any industrial dispute?

To listen to argument after argument knowing that they can have little influence? To tolerate politicians with fairly well known attitudes who spoke them before the dispute and who will speak the same afterwards? To know that each side will say they regret the disruption that it will cause passengers but that there was no other way? To realise that they will be the ones inconvenienced but who can have no say or sway in the decision of either side?

Is short, then the passenger has to grin and bear it.

In any dispute there are 3 partners, the company, the employees and the customers. The company and the employees will discuss and negotiate. The only time the customers become involved is when decisions have been made. The right they then have is to buy the product or not. They have no role in whether the product is available or not. Once the product is available they are represented by consumer rights’ organisations. In the case of airlines, that is the Air Transport Users Council (AUC). In the case of railways (since we seem to have a strike by signalmen which will disrupt train services) there is {Passenger Focus. Their role is to almost arbitrate over any relevant problem after it has occurred and which cannot be resolved directly between the customer and the company. They don’t get involved beforehand so the only news on the AUC website home page is the fact that a strike is occurring, the same on the Passenger Focus home page. Even if they were aware of passengers’ feelings they could not or did not make representations to either party in advance of the strike.

Should they have made their/our views known to the company and the union? Should passengers/customers have a right in law to be consulted prior to a strike since we are the ones to be inconvenienced? And if we are to be represented, how? Do bodies like the AUC or Passenger Focus represent us? Should they canvas views in advance? Should there be passenger panels with each airline as happens in the rail industry? Won’t passengers always object to anything that disrupts their holidays/travel despite the reasons either side might have that leads to industrial action?

We can influence companies like airlines by not using them (unless they have a monopoly on a route) but how do we influence unions to take notice of us?

I see no easy answer. Any thoughts?

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