Agents dispute CAA demands for Goldtrail costs

Some agency bosses are refusing to accept that they must foot the bill for the repatriation of their Goldtrail Holidays customers having received a demand from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The CAA sent a letter to agencies with Atols on Monday asking them to sign a declaration agreeing to repay £150 plus tax for each passenger brought home by the CAA, which is paying for it out of the Air Travel Trust.

Agencies were requested to sign the document and return it by 5pm on Monday or the CAA would “assume you do not wish us to carry your passengers”. According to the CAA, two-thirds of the 16,000 customers overseas returned home at the weekend following Goldtrail’s failure on Friday evening.

Agency bosses of some of the UK’s leading retailers are understood to be refusing to sign the declaration, having been under the impression they were dealing with the Turkey operator as an agent, and are being backed by trade association Abta.

Travel Weekly understands Goldtrail changed its terms and conditions for some agents in December 2009, so it was dealing with them on an Atol-to-Atol basis, without notifying them.

Bookable Holidays owner Jason Dwyer, who had 3,500 customers booked with Goldtrail, said: “I noticed that the invoices said Atol-to-Atol and that’s what prompted me to get supplier failure cover.

“I don’t think it’s something Goldtrail went out of its way to bring to people’s attention – other people weren’t aware of the change.”

However, Abta head of legal services Simon Bunce claimed Goldtrail had been selling seats on an Atol-to-Atol basis “by mistake”.

He said: “We have concerns about bookings that were intended to be retail seat sales and were invoiced mistakenly by Goldtrail as Atol-to-Atol sales. We have raised this concern with the CAA and are waiting for a response.

“Clearly, if invoices were issued mistakenly they should not be treated as binding. If they were clearly intended to be retail seat sales they would be the responsibility of the CAA.”

He added: “Where companies have clearly bought from Goldtrail on an Atol-to-Atol basis, of course it will be their own decision whether to accept the CAA’s offer or make their own arrangements.”

Alan Bowen, legal adviser to the Association of Atol Companies, called the collapse a “humdinger of a mess”. He said: “If a lot of agents didn’t realise they were selling Atol-to-Atol, this could cause them a lot of problems.”

A spokesman for the CAA said: “If you are an Atol holder, you’re responsible for your customers.

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise to an Atol holder that they are responsible for replacing any part of a package that wasn’t realised. Most people are aware of their responsibilities.”

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