ABTA and the Air Transport Users Council are lobbying the Government to implement financial protection for scheduled airline passengers following the collapse of Debonair (Travel Weekly October 4).

The airline is the third scheduled carrier to have collapsed this year. ABAirlines and Euroscot both failed earlier in the summer.

ABTA and the AUC, with support from the Civil Aviation Authority,want passengers to pay a small levy into a central fund to be used to repatriate and reimburse customers if a scheduled carrier fails.

AUC chairman Ian Hamer wrote to deputy prime minister John Prescott following the Debonair failure to demand the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence scheme be extended to include scheduled carriers.

He said the Government could also incorporate provisions for a new fund into a parliamentary bill to put the Air Travel Trust Fund, which backs up the ATOL scheme, into the black.

Unlike charter customers who are protected by a company’s ATOL bond, scheduled passengers have to take out their own insurance.

ABTA chief executive Ian Reynolds said: “ABTA has lobbied Westminster and Brussels for greater scheduled airline protection, but there has been little progress. Debonair will help focus the mind on the problems.”

Both ABTA and the AUC said passengers would only be paying pennies out of their fares towards the cost of a scheduled airline protection fund.

Hundreds of Debonair passengers face losses from cancelled flights or had to rely on other airlines to fly them home after the Luton carrier called in the administrators.

Some 700 passengers were stranded.

Only customers who had paid over £100 for tickets with a credit card or who had taken on insurance covering scheduled carrier failure were protected. The rest will have to approach administrators Deloitte and Touche for compensation, which is likely to be a fraction of their costs. Deloitte and Touche said claims were coming in.

The AUC called for more information from agents and airlines telling scheduled customers of their liability. Industry affairs advisor Simon Evans said: “It would be nice of airlines and agents to inform people they may not be covered if a scheduled airline collapses, but we appreciate this may be impractical.”