Comment: If experts disagree over ATOL, what chance do consumers have?

TWgroup editor Lucy HuxleyIt’s bad enough when consumers see an ATOL logo on a website and assume, often incorrectly, that everything on that site is protected.

Just ask the thousands of Freedom Direct clients who are probably still scratching their heads about what went wrong.

But if the boss of a big consortium and the CAA can’t agree on a major supplier’s use of the ATOL logo then alarm bells really ought to ring.

TTA operations director Gary Lewis is a bright guy who’s totally immersed in travel. But the CAA insists he’s got the wrong end of the stick when he says that the use of the ATOL logo on Globespan documents related to a time when the operator’s flight-only sales were protected alongside its packages.

If the CAA is right and one of the country’s top agency figures was mistaken, what chance would a consumer have?

And is it really good enough for the CAA to agree it isn’t clear, and then place the onus back on the agent or buyer to check?

It seems to me that ABTA chairman John McEwan is spot on when he calls for the ATOL logo to be used only when the buyer’s money is safe, regardless of what they book.

Our exclusive consumer poll this week suggests that four out of five customers still pay attention to ATOL or ABTA logos. But the 20% that don’t are likely to become a growing minority if they feel the logos stand for nothing.

It’s only when the ATOL logo stands for a 100% guarantee that an effective education drive can start in earnest.

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