Advantage Atol trust set to launch in June

Agency consortium Advantage is on course to launch a trust account system for members in June in advance of travel retailers requiring an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (Atol).

The trust account will mean agents who dynamically package holidays for clients will be covered by the Atol held by Advantage and will not be required to provide a bond to cover customers’ money when the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) introduces a new ‘flight-plus’ licence early next year.

The change will bring separate sales of flights, accommodation and other holiday components by high-street and online retailers into the Atol consumer financial-protection scheme for the first time. At the moment only traditional package holidays are protected.

Advantage chief executive John McEwan said: “We had a meeting with the CAA this week and it is comfortable with the process.” McEwan said the system would be relatively straightforward to introduce as the sales of about 100 Advantage members are already reported electronically through the consortium’s online ‘gateway’.

He said: “Previously it was difficult to track sales, but now they all go through the gateway. We perform financial vetting [on member companies] already and are used to handling members’ payments. There would be daily reconciliation [of sales and payments] because the process is online.”

McEwan declined to say how much it would cost agents to operate within the trust account system, but the fees will include the price of Supplier Failure Insurance and administration costs as well as the £2.50 per person Atol Protection Contribution (APC) paid into the Air Travel Trust Fund.

The Advantage trust account will leave members responsible for re-booking or refunding clients in the event of a supplier failure. McEwan said: “It would be incumbent on the retailer to replace or refund a booking. Advantage would not take responsibility for refunding or replacing a holiday.” He confirmed members would not be allowed to join the scheme without insurance against a supplier’s failure.

McEwan said: “We have an ongoing dialogue with the CAA on this and there is nothing to suggest it won’t happen.” The Department for Transport is due to launch a three-month consultation with the industry on the new flight-plus Atol in May, in time to make the required regulatory change in the autumn and have the licence in operation from January.

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