The Civil Aviation Authority has finally released amended Atol regulations to meet the requirements of the European Package Travel Directive which comes into force in three weeks.

The CAA published the amended regulations this afternoon together with its response to an industry consultation on its proposed changes.

New Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) come into force alongside the amended Atol rules.

These extend the rights enjoyed by consumers buying package holidays to millions of holiday bookings which previously sat outside the rules.

They mean online travel agents (OTAs) and traditional high street agencies which sell flights and accommodation will become “organisers” of package holidays and carry the same liabilities towards consumers as tour operators.

Such holidays are currently sold as ‘flight-plus’ arrangements, offering financial protection but not other package-holiday protections.

The EU directive was passed in 2015. The UK PTRs should have been passed last year to allow businesses at least six months to prepare ahead of the compliance deadline of July 1.

However, the final version of the PTRs was only published late in May.

Abta hit out at the lengthy delay this week as “unfair to the industry” following repeated assurances that publication of the Atol rules and Department for Business (BEIS) guidance on the new regulations was imminent.

Simon Bunce, Abta director of legal affairs said: “It is very unfair on the industry to leave it this late.

“Businesses should know by now they need an Atol if they are selling flight packages.

“Where it gets difficult is in the detail – the statements people need to make in marketing and in booking conditions. It’s difficult for business to plan and to build wording into systems.”

There has been no explanation for the prolonged hold up.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer blamed a “logjam” in government.

The CAA has previously said it will allow businesses a three-month ‘grace period’ before enforcing the new Atol Regulations.

But Tanzer said: “It’s all very well the CAA saying it will take a loose attitude [to enforcing the regulations] to begin. It doesn’t matter. The customer has these rights from July 1.”

However, the Abta chief welcomed the changes, insisting: “The big thing is that online travel sales –come under the Package Travel Directive from July 1. That will bring a few million [more] holidays into the PTRs. That is good for consumers and good for the industry.”

More: CAA publication [External]