ABTA leaders have expressed concern that Whitehall proposals on the definition of a package holiday give too little legal weight to brochures and advertising material.


The Civil Aviation Authority believes the guidance will tighten controls sufficiently to end use of the term dynamic packaging for sales not covered by an ATOL, and that it will be difficult to sell anything other than a package if retailing more than one component at a time.


ABTA leaders met senior civil servants responsible for the guidance at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform last week.


An ABTA spokesman said: “We’re in general agreement, but feel the guidance could go further. We would like more advice.”


However, ABTA objects to the emphasis on customer perception in determining whether a sale constitutes a package. The guidance notes: “If the consumer thinks they have bought a package, it is likely to be a package.”


ABTA would prefer to see other “evidential pointers” – such as the wording of brochures and advertising – given more weight.


It is also unhappy at the intention to enforce compliance through the European Unfair Commercial Practices Directive that comes into force next April.


The spokesman added: “The guidance should be broadened to flight-only and accommodation services and explain best practice for every type of sale.”


Federation of Tour Operators director-general Andy Cooper said his members found little wrong with the guidance: “The only question is whether it is brave enough,” he said.


Travel Trust Association director Todd Carpenter welcomed the guidance: “It has been our position all along. Our members only sell packages, whether or not they put them together.”


But he added: “This is not what ABTA was looking for. The problem [for ABTA members] will be how to sell individual components and it not be a package.”


The proposals would require retailers to explain to clients buying non ATOL-protected holidays that they will lose their money if any company involved in the transaction collapses and that the retailer won’t be liable in the event of an accident.