Kane: Enough of the CAA’s legal sideshow

Travel Republic managing director Kane PirieFollowing the latest court judgment, I was in a coffee shop in London, supposedly enjoying yet another court victory over the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), but to be honest the novelty has worn off.

CAA addicted to losing

The CAA has tried to peddle its ‘holiday = package’ fudge since it published its Guidance Note.

Four court cases and four losses later, and how does it respond? Does it accept the judgments handed down in a magistrates’ court, High Court (twice) and Court of Appeal?

No. Apparently, only the CAA, and not our judiciary, is blessed with a true understanding of the law. Its excuse is that it is seeking clarity – just how much clarity does it need?

The real problem is that it doesn’t like the stark message it has been told emphatically in several court judgments: there is absolutely nothing wrong with how Travel Republic operates.

Hopelessly addicted to losing, hell-bent on dragging the dispute into any court in the UK or Europe that will have it, it will prolong this sideshow any way it can.

Confused objective

The CAA, seemingly, would like to regulate all travel agents in the country, requiring all agents to hold an Atol and therefore to act, in effect, not as agents at all.

Tour operators and travel agents are not the same thing, any more than house builders and estate agents are. In fact, given that the CAA’s TTA-Atol scheme is officially ‘unlawful’, it is not certain the CAA really understands what it is asking the industry to do.

In the broader context of a new government promising to reduce red tape and regulatory costs of businesses, this does not fit. Most people organise their own holidays outside of the tour operator regime. It seems an odd reaction to ask “how can we stop them”.

The national economy is knackered. The emergency budget on Tuesday outlined spending cuts and VAT increases. There is a danger of another recession.

With several million pounds of taxpayers’ money already squandered, surely secretary of state for transport Philip Hammond cannot regard sponsoring the CAA on a fifth kamikaze mission as a spending priority? Frankly, it strikes me as reprehensibly irresponsible to even attempt it.

Package fundamentalism

The CAA is a package holiday fundamentalist, zealous in its ambitions. Personally, I don’t share its claimed angst for the general public who increasingly vote with their money elsewhere.

The public are not naive. Critically, though, if the CAA does want to change the law, the right building in Westminster to start with is the one with the big clock on it and not the magistrates’ court.

It knows this; the new Atol regulations already consulted on and being drafted will finally address the CAA’s concern about scope, long before the industry accepts the authority’s obscure view of the old law.

Which begs the question, what is this really about now?

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