Broad support for the Atol reform announced on Thursday was coupled with demands for the government to go further.
Consumer champion Which? Travel suggested more than 14 million overseas holidays a year would remain unprotected despite the creation of a flight-plus Atol to protect consumers buying separate flights and accommodation from the same company.
Which? Travel head of research Rochelle Turner said: “The way people book holidays has changed radically over the last decade and it’s about time Atol caught up.”
The Co-operative Travel managing director Mike Greenacre agreed, saying: “We are extremely disappointed airline and website click-through sales are excluded, when what is need is one rule for all.”
Greenacre said: “It’s vital holidaymakers are left in no doubt whatsoever as to whether their holiday is protected – no matter what method or mix of products they use to make a booking.”
Leeds Metropolitan University professor of travel law David Grant said: “The government has again failed to grasp the nettle of airline insolvency. Airlines go bust in Europe all the time – why shouldn’t there be a scheme which deals directly with the problem rather than shuffling it off on to travel agents.”
Professor Grant said that the failure of aviation minister Theresa Villiers to mention click-through sales in her statement yesterday “looks like a weakening of government resolve” to tackle the issue.
However, the Association of Atol Companies (AAC) expressed “wholehearted support” for the proposals. “We are pleased to see that all licences will be similar in the level of responsibility they carry towards the consumer,” it said in a statement. “The AAC believes the proposals may be an opportunity for existing Atol holders to increase their business by offering to dynamically package for agents.”
AAC chairman David Mortimer added: “It is a wake-up call for agents who have wanted to act as though they were principals, but not take responsibility if things go wrong. We call on agents to decide on which side of the fence they want to fall.”
Maria Whiteman, CEO of directline holidays said: “The proposed overhaul of ATOL is a welcome change and the new legislation will be of great benefit to both the travel industry and the millions of consumers who purchase holidays every year.
“The scheme is in definite need of this reform as there is a legacy of confusion regarding the different levels of cover afforded by a traditional package holiday versus a dynamically packaged holiday. We support any move that allows consumers increased security and confidence surrounding their holiday bookings.”
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