Impact on transport of recent adverse weather conditions

Written evidence from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) (AWC 36)

Bona-fides – BVRLA, the industry and its members

· The BVRLA is the trade body for companies engaged in the leasing and rental of cars and commercial vehicles. Its members provide rental, leasing and fleet management services to corporate users and consumers. They operate a combined fleet of 2.5 million cars, vans and trucks, buying nearly half of all new vehicles sold in the UK.

· Through its members and their customers, the BVRLA represents the interests of more than two million business car drivers and the millions of people who use a rental vehicle each year. As well as lobbying the Government on key issues affecting the sector, the BVRLA regulates the industry through a mandatory code of conduct. www.bvrla.co.uk

Leasing Members

In general, vehicle leasing is an arrangement where the user simply hires the use of the vehicle and assumes operational responsibility for a predetermined period and mileage at fixed monthly rental from the owner (the leasing company). Legal ownership is, in the majority of cases, retained by the leasing company.

Short Term Rental Members

RENTAL MEMBERS OFFER HOURLY, DAILY, WEEKLY AND MONTHLY RENTAL OF VEHICLES TO CORPORATE CUSTOMERS AND CONSUMERS. AS EXPLAINED ABOVE, RENTAL MEMBERS ARE THE OWNERS OF THE VEHICLE.

Key Recommandations

1. BAA should ensure it makes available equitable remedies to its clients and customers, such as our members, who have suffered as a consequence of BAA’s failings.

2. BAA should carefully review its information / communication provisions to ensure that they are sufficiently robust to notify rental companies of all emergency situations where flights in and out of the airport have been severely disrupted.

3. BAA should invest and enhance the existing communication process for all dependent businesses. There should be a critical update’ email address/phone line where our members are regularly sent information on all situations which may adversely impact both flights and passengers using the airport.

Specific Comments

1. The key area of concern for our members related to the lack of communication and information provided to them by BAA during the period Heathrow Airport was adversely impacted in December 2010. The lack of information had meant that our members were unable to manage their operations efficiently or deliver their normally high level of service to their customers. As a direct consequence of this our members have suffered a high level of financial losses, which our members are taking up separately with BAA. These financial losses relate to, but by no means are exclusive to, operational matters such as having to keep vehicles available for customers who had pre-booked, continue to circulate staged courtesy buses at all terminal buildings, and having to ask their employees to be at their post at the all rental locations.

2. We would therefore suggest that the committee makes recommendations to BAA to ensure it makes available equitable remedies to its clients and customers, such as our members, who have suffered as a consequence of BAA’s failings.

3. We would hope that by ensuring BAA is held to account for its failings it will put in place the level of protection and preventative procedures to help assure our members of business continuity and delivery of the service our members would expect from any class leading airport operator.

4. Our members, with operations at Heathrow airport were inundated with rental customers contacting them enquiring as to what the current situation was with flights and the operation of the airport. Our members could only advise customers to call their airlines for the latest information.

5. With our members’ customers not knowing if and when they could travel; this created immense difficulties for our members as this caused severe disruption with fleet planning. This was not helped by the exceptionally high number of customers not turning up for the pre-booked vehicles, the so called ‘no shows’. Even when the airport started to resume back to ‘normal’ operation, our members’ customers, who had pre-booked, were turning up two or three days after their pre-booked date, expecting their rental vehicle still to be made available, especially as they felt they should not be penalised for the problems associated with the disruption at the airport.

6. The complete lack of any authoritative and useful information had also severely impacted the operation of our members’ courtesy buses and staff planning. There were a number of days where the flight times were extended for arrivals right through the night. As a result, our members had to continue to operate their courtesy buses throughout the night just in case there were more customers arriving.

7. We would therefore suggest that one of the key recommendations the committee makes would be for BAA to ensure it carefully reviews its information / communication provisions to ensure that they are sufficiently robust to notify rental companies of all emergency situations where flights in and out of the airport have been severely disrupted.

8. While we understand that there is a communication process in place, it would seem that during the period the airport was disrupted, this communication process failed. It is therefore vital that the committee understands the reasons for this failure and that as part of its recommendations ensures that BAA is required to have in place a fail safe and robust mechanism whereby regular alerts and vital information is routinely provided to our members, who are then able to proactively manage their respective businesses by ensuring business continuity where possible and importantly enable them to deliver good customer service to airport passengers.

9. If any lessons can be learnt from this incident, the single and most critical area would be for BAA to invest and enhance the existing communication process for all dependent businesses. This should attempt to be all embracing by encompassing all situations which may adversely impact both flights and passengers using the airport. This for example, would include road closures or when the tubes stop running. This could also be enhanced to take into account the more severe events and also what is being planned in the future that will impact on the car rental business and their customers. (runway closures, night flights etc).

10. It remains unclear to us what communication plan currently exists that is shared with other key stakeholders, such as catering suppliers who load the aircraft, the management of baggage, or bus operators who move the crew/staff etc around airside, who would require up to date information. If such information does exist then we see no justifiable reason why this information could not be shared with rental firms and other dependent companies operating at the airport.

11. In essence, we believe that our members should be treated on an equal footing to other ground transportation and other suppliers working on airside and that this information should be fed into a ‘critical update’ email address/phone line where our members can cascade appropriately within their operations.

March 2011