Abta warned government ministers today that their insistence on January 1 as the date for implementing the Flight-Plus Atol was “endangering” the reform.

The association submitted its response to the Department for Transport (DfT) consultation on Atol Reform, with a list of concerns and a complaint that the rush to implement the changes was placing “undue pressure” on businesses.

The submission followed “the biggest-ever consultation process” Abta has undertaken with members.

The association told the DfT: “Abta has serious concerns that the government’s timetable for implementation of the new system in January 2012 may endanger the quality and effectiveness of the reforms, as well as placing travel businesses under unnecessary and undue pressure.”

Abta also called on the government to “make an explicit commitment” to extend protection to holidays sold by airlines.

The DfT has promised to consider extending the scheme to carriers in legislation that could go before Parliament next year. However, a leading lawyer – Peter Stewart of Field Fisher Waterhouse – has today challenged the view that the proposed regulations leave airlines outside the scheme.

A survey of Abta members found 95% support for the inclusion of carriers. Abta offered support for the current proposals “as a first step”, but said it “considers the inclusion of airlines as an essential second step”.

The association expressed a series of additional concerns about the proposals, including the “lack of definition regarding the protection to be offered by the Air Travel Trust Fund and hence the backup insurance requirements required by Flight-Plus arrangers”; “the mechanism for implementing the Atol Certificate”; and “the bonding requirements for new Atol holders”.

Abta said it believes “all holidays, however booked, should be financially protected” and added: “There are still many important questions unanswered.”

Association chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Atol reform is such an important issue and we have had a diverse range of views from our members. This feedback has been critical in shaping the Abta response.”

He added: “We want a workable solution, not just a quick solution. The current timetable of January 1 may endanger the quality of the reforms.”

Abta submitted its response two days ahead of the deadline on Thursday, following consultation with members at 11 regional meetings around the UK and after attracting its biggest-ever response to a questionnaire of members.