MIDCONSORT
chief executive Charles Eftichiou has accused the Civil Aviation Authority of
running away from a debate on mini-ATOLs.

His
comments came after the CAA declined to attend Midconsort’s conference in Morocco,
where agents were expected to grill the association over its interpretation of
the laws.

“I understand the CAA is very busy, particularly at a time
when a couple of operators may go under, but my gut feeling is this was a handy
excuse,” he said. “I think the CAA is running scared of getting into a debate
on this issue.”

The
consortium, in conjunction with ABTA, is in dispute with the CAA over the
controversial issue and has produced a document detailing its own
interpretation of the complex laws. Central to the row is the phrase
‘pre-arranged’.

In
September agents offering split contracts were warned by the CAA they could
face prosecution if they avoided applying for a new mini-ATOL licence before it
was brought in on October 8.

Eftichiou
claimed retailers were not applying for mini- ATOLs because of confusion
surrounding the rules – in particular what constitutes a tailor-made holiday
and what is pre-arranged travel.

Deputy
director of the consumer protection group at the CAA David Moesli denied he was
‘running scared’.

“We’ve
been to many ABTA regional meetings but were just unable to go to Morocco. Next
Thursday I will be attending another regional meeting in Birmingham where
Charles and probably some of his members will be present.”

Meanwhile,
agents who hit sales targets will earn a free place at the consortium’s
conference, its chief executive has said.

Despite
declaring he was happy with the attendance in Morocco, Eftichiou said
Midconsort was looking at ways to increase numbers. Almost 50 members were
expected to travel to this weekend’s event, slightly less than the supplier
contingent.

Eftichiou
said: “We are happy with the ratio. We had slightly more member companies this
year, but what is significant is that they represent about 75% of our revenue.”