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Aviation FAQs

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What do I do if my baggage is lost by the airline?

Lost, damaged or delayed baggage is covered under the 1999 Montreal Convention which came into force for the UK in June 2004, and deals with the principles of carrier liability. Under the Convention, unless the carrier can establish any of the defences set out in the Montreal Convention(and the burden of proof is on them to establish such a defence), they are prima facie liable for luggage that has been delayed, damaged or lost. The liability for delay, loss or damage to baggage is limited to 1,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) (approximately £820).

The Convention allows for passengers carrying valuable items to make a special declaration of interest to the airline and, for a fee, their baggage will be covered for the full value of the declared amount. The carrier will be liable to pay a sum not exceeding the declared sum, unless it proves that the sum is greater than the passenger's actual baggage value. Passengers must make their request to the check-in agent before baggage is checked-in and the special declaration fee must be collected at the start of the journey.

Passengers should report any mishandled baggage problems to the service desk in the baggage collection hall before they leave the airport. The Air Transport Users Council (AUC) advise that when a baggage problem at the airport is reported, the airline or agent should make out a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) and give the passenger a copy. The airline will want to see the PIR when making a claim. But it is not a legal requirement to have a PIR and an airline should not simply dismiss your claim without one.

Advice is available from Directgov - Making a complaint about air services [external website].

How do I know if my holiday is protected?

Advice is available from Directgov - Your rights if an airline or travel company goes bust [external website].

How can I complain about my airline?

Advice is available from Directgov - Making a complaint about air services [external website].

What if I have concerns about my fitness to fly?

Advice is available from Directgov - In-flight safety [external website] and Directgov - UK flight services [external website].

What are the current airport security measures regarding luggage on flights?

Advice is available from Directgov - Dangerous and restricted items: what you cannot take on board a flight [external website].

How early do I need to check-in?

Advice is available from Directgov - What to expect at the airport [external website].

What are the requirements for passports and visas?

Advice is available from Directgov - Passports [external website].

What health precautions should I take?

Advice is available from Directgov - In-flight safety [external website].

Why do airlines ask for information about me before I travel?

Advice is available from Directgov - Advance registration before you travel [external website].

What security restrictions are in place?

Advice is available from Dangerous and restricted items: what you cannot take on board a flight- Directgov [external website].

Can I carry duty-free drinks in the aircraft cabin?

Advice is available from Directgov - Air travel hand baggage rules [external website].

What are the entry requirements for the UK?

Advice is available from Directgov - Passports [external website] and Directgov - Bringing goods or cash into the UK section [external website].

How can I check that the airline is safe?

Aviation is a safe means of travel.  UK airlines are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority, who also inspect foreign-registered aircraft travelling to the UK to check if they meet international standards of safety.  However, when travelling in certain regions of the world, you should be aware that safety standards vary.  The EU maintains a 'blacklist' of carriers that are banned from flying to Europe because of safety concerns.  The up-to-date list can be found here http://ec.europa.eu/transport/air-ban/list_en.htm.  The FCO’s travel advice also contains some information on local airline safety by country .  We recommend you consult this advice and take it into account when planning your journey.

What assistance is available for people with reduced mobility?

Advice is available from Directgov - Getting about [external website].

What form of identification do I require to travel?

Advice is available from Directgov - Passports [external website].

How environmentally damaging is it to fly?

Globally, carbon dioxide from aviation is responsible for around 2.6% of total CO2 emissions. In 2008, aviation (domestic and international) accounted for around 6.3% of total UK total CO2 emissions.

Estimated UK carbon dioxide emissions by source category: 2008

Million tonnes

Source category 2008 % Transport % of Total
Cars and taxis  72.1 41.9% 12.5%
Aviation (domestic and international) 36.3 21.1% 6.3%
Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) 23.5 13.7% 4.1%
Light vans 15.7 9.1% 2.7%
Shipping (national and international) 12.8 7.5% 2.2%
Buses and coaches 4.9 2.8% 0.8%
Rail 2.2 1.3% 0.4%
Other* 3.9 2.3% 0.7%
Mopeds & motorcycles 0.6 0.4% 0.1%
All transport (domestic and international) 171.9 100.0% 29.9%
All (domestic and international) 574.4   100%

* Includes road vehicle LPG emissions, road vehicle engine emissions, aircraft support vehicles and 'military aircraft and shipping'.

How much tax do I pay when I fly?

Aviation is currently exempt from fuel tax and VAT on tickets. Aviation fuel can not be taxed due to an exemption in the International Civil Aviation Organization Chicago Convention (1944) and restrictions in many bilateral air services treaties that cannot be unilaterally amended.

The only UK tax currently levied on air passengers is the Air Passenger Duty (APD). HM Treasury is responsible for all taxation issues including decisions relating to the reform of APD. The current details of APD can be found on the HMRC website [external website]

How can I offset my emissions?

Advice is available from Directgov - Carbon offsetting [external website].

Can I take my pets on board when I fly?

Advice is available from Directgov - Taking your pets abroad [external website].

FAQs about adding capacity at Heathrow airport

FAQs about the listing of aviation security providers

FAQs about the project for the sustainable development of Heathrow

Contrails / Chemtrails

What are contrails?

These are ice crystal clouds that form at high altitudes from the exhaust products of aircraft when atmospheric conditions of temperature and humidity favour this. The nuclei of some of the ice crystals in a contrail will contain minute products of combustion but they are essentially pure ice.

According to some reports contrails contain barium or compounds of aluminium and silicon (often called aluminosilicates). Is this correct?

We understand from the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) that measurements undertaken in the UK since 2004 have shown no significant increase in concentrations of barium in rainwater measured at rural sites across the UK. Moreover alumina-silicates are common in clay soils and a wide range of other minerals, therefore measurements in air and soils are dominated by the ground level sources of aluminiosilicates rather than any that might come from contrails.

Are DfT aware of chemtrails?

In the UK the Department is not aware of any other matter or aerosol being ejected from aircraft (known as chemtrails), other than the normal exhaust products from the aircraft.

We are aware that other countries have on occasions used weather modification techniques such as hurricane suppression and cloud seeding, which causes precipitation by introducing substances into cumulus clouds that cause condensation. More information on this can be found in a House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology issued a report in 2010 entitled  “The Regulation of Geoengineering” This is available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/221/22102.htm

Why do contrails seem to form grid like patterns in the sky and why are they long lasting? Should they not disappear within a few minutes?

Aircraft often follow similar routes separated by altitude, time or lateral distance and that is why you see grid like patterns in the sky. There is now widely accepted scientific evidence that contrails can mix and persist in the sky to form a larger denser cloud. The Committee on Climate Change report “Meeting the UK aviation target- options for reducing emissions to 2050”, states that “depending on meteorological conditions, the flight of aircraft can also cause formation of linear ice clouds (contrails) and can lead to further subsequent aviation-induced cloudiness”.

Are there any ill health effects caused by contrails?

There is no evidence that contrails cause health problems. The main impact of aviation on ground local air quality relates to emissions during the landing and take-off phase up to about 3000 feet. Above this height the oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter which can cause respiratory problems, get dispersed.

Are there any climatic implications from contrails?

We are interested in understanding the formation and coverage of contrails from a climate change perspective. DfT has a contract with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) lead by Professor David Lee to provide evidence, technical modelling and scientific expertise covering areas of climate change and air quality in aviation. This includes the non CO2 climate effects of aviation to which contrails and contrail cirrus will likely have a major role. Professor David Lee works closely with Reading and Leeds University who are also involved into climate change caused by contrail cirrus. The contribution from anthropogenic (man-made) cirrus remains the most uncertain component from aviation. However, current scientific understanding is that they cause an additional warming of the atmosphere. Further information can be found in the MMU Report “DfT Aviation Environment and Atmospheric Expert Technical Support” This can be found at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/aviation/research/researchreport/finalreport/DfT_FinalReport_250310.pdf

For related documents, pages and internet links, see the column on the right.

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