Online travel agency On the Beach has reached an agreement with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to pay Goldtrail Holidays customers’ claims in full as it emerged the retailer has applied for its own Atol.
Both the CAA and On the Beach insisted the application for an Atol predated, and was unrelated to, discussions on Goldtrail payouts in a series of meetings, including at last week’s Travel Convention.
Atol reform was one of the hot topics at the convention as the industry awaits reforms designed to bring dynamic packaging retailers such as On the Beach into the Atol net.
The agreement reached on Tuesday with trustees of the Air Travel Trust Fund, which backs Atol, will see On the Beach administer payments to about 2,000 of its customers that had booked with Goldtrail.
Alistair Daly, marketing director of On the Beach, claimed the issue of whether its customers would be refunded was never in question, just the mechanism for doing so.
“We have agreed with the CAA that we are going to refund the Goldtrail flight monies to On the Beach customers,” he said.
“To speed up the process we are going to administer it on behalf of the CAA. We hope to start refunding people in the middle of November and everyone will have their money before Christmas.”
Travel Weekly reported in August that the CAA had written to some non-Atol retailers questioning their agency status but offering a “compromise” solution.
The identity of these retailers was never revealed, but Daly said On the Beach had not had to make any concessions to secure the deal on payouts.
“We are in discussions with the CAA about where online agents sit within the regulatory regime. We want to be part of it because consumer protection is important to us.”
Observers put On the Beach’s exposure to Goldtrail’s failure at £3 million.