Chief executive Mark Tanzer pledges to resist any ‘unnecessary’ changes to Atol. Ian Taylor reports

A “logjam” in government has delayed detailed guidance on new Package Travel Regulations (PTRs), now less than a month from coming into force, says Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer.

He pledged Abta “will push back” on any unnecessary Atol changes demanded by the CAA alongside the regulations, which become law on July 1.

Tanzer said: “It’s disappointing we are this close [to the deadline] and still haven’t had clarity about the regulations. There seems to be a logjam with government. Quite why it has taken this long I don’t know. They have known this was coming since 2015.

“We’ve tried to get members as far ahead of the game as we can with the information we have.” The new PTRs mean bookings now sold under Flight-Plus Atols will be package holidays from July 1, with all the associated liabilities.

The CAA was poised to issue amended Atol regulations this week and the Department of Business (BEIS) to publish guidance on implementing the PTRs.

Tanzer insisted: “We will push back on any changes in the Atol regulations that aren’t necessary [for the new arrangements]. Let’s bed these changes in first. We don’t want change on change – it’s not acceptable. There is already enough uncertainty.”

CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty told the recent Barclays Travel Forum that the regulator would allow Atol-holders three months “to get their house in order”.

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, Tanzer welcomed the changes to the PTRs, insisting: “The big thing is that online travel sales – all these dynamic sales on websites which look like packages to consumers – 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.”

He acknowledged continuing uncertainty about aspects of the regulations – in particular, over interpretation of the new category of Linked Travel Arrangements (LTAs) – but said: “How you deal with things at the edges of this was always going to be difficult.

“Whatever [the EU] came up with, there was going to be some ambiguity. The directive was never intended to bring everything in. There may be cases where someone says something is not a package and a court says it is.”

Yet he insisted: “Those who have been selling dynamic packages are aware of the changes. Our agency members are very aware.”

Tanzer added: “Most of our members are packaging holidays or selling as agents.”

He reported the association’s membership remains “stable” at about 1,200, but added: “We’ve seen big growth in managed branches operating under a single member’s number, so the number of entities operating under Abta membership has grown.”

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