Scheduled airlines are at increasing risk of failure and should be brought into the ATOL consumer protection system as a matter of urgency, says a government advisory committee.
But the best hope of that happening lies in a change of government, the committee chairman admits – meaning the industry should concentrate on lobbying the Conservatives.
The Air Travel Insolvency Protection Advisory Committee warned this week of “significant concern over the lack of financial protection for air travellers booked direct with scheduled airlines.”
ATIPAC advises the Civil Aviation Authority’s consumer protection group and reports to transport secretary Ruth Kelly.
Committee chairman John Cox said: “All holidays carried ATOL protection 20 years ago. Now people put together holidays themselves and are without protection if one of the suppliers goes bust.
“It is not satisfactory for the government to allow a situation where people make different arrangements for the same holiday and it is pure chance whether they are protected.”
The CAA, ABTA and the Federation of Tour Operators have repeatedly called for scheduled airlines to be included in the ATOL scheme. But ministers have resisted the calls, accepting the argument of leading airlines that major failures are unlikely.
Cox said: “Anyone who thinks airlines do not go bust is an idiot – 27 carriers have gone bust already this year and there will be more. Major airlines do go bust.”
He added: “A change of government would bring a fresh set of minds.”
ABTA head of policy and communications David Marshall said: “We met shadow aviation minister Julian Brazier six weeks ago, who said he would look at the issue.”
Marshall has strong links to the Tories, having worked as a press officer for Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and early 1990s. .
He said: “The vibes are that the Tories understand our position, but will not commit themselves one way or the other at this stage.”