The Association of Atol Companies has underlined its support for the proposed flights plus overhaul of the UK consumer protection regime expressing bemusement at recent criticism.
In a statement released yesterday the association’s chairman David Mortimer said the change will clear up grey areas in the law and should be welcomed by “all conscientious agents and operators”.
Flights plus could see agents that currently sell a flight and a significant other holiday element separately but at the same time needing to hold an Atol like any operator selling a pre-arranged package.
Although the proposals went through a consultation last year, only recently fears of the potential liability the new Atol regulations will place on agents have been raised prompting calls for flights plus to be boycotted.
An announcement on government proposals for reform of Atol is due any day, with sources saying they expect to hear something in early February.
Mortimer said: “Far from being scared by the proposed changes to the Atol Certificate, as some people seem to be we enthusiastically welcome the CAA’s new proposals for the enhancement of Atol.
“Anything that makes the regulations clearer for the consumer in explaining the protection that they have must be what all conscientious agents and operators should want.
“The consultation period on ‘flight plus’, when everybody had the chance to have their say, ended some ten months ago, and we are now looking forward to further details being published.”
Mortimer said recent significant failures such as Goldtrail Holidays and Kiss Flights during last summer highlighted the lack of knowledge amongst customers as to whether they were financially protected or not.
“Many customers of dynamic packaging agents had absolutely no understanding of the multiple contract levels that the agent had created, which were not explained to them at the time of booking. Indeed, some of those customers are still waiting, six months later, for repayment by the CAA Atol scheme.
“We wholeheartedly support any measure that provides clarity for consumers. Travel agents can still decide whether to dynamically package in which case they need to hold their own Atol license, or they might choose to buy from an Atol holder, which of course all of our members are.
“Under the new proposed regulations they will have to make it quite clear to their clients the basis of their booking in terms of protection.
“There should be no room for ‘grey’ areas when it comes to consumer protection and in difficult economic times like this, there is an even stronger need to reassure and gain the confidence of customers in the ability of this industry to look after their interests in an honest and open way.”