The travel industry has been calling for airlines to be brought into the Atol consumer-protection scheme for as long as anyone can remember. Abta repeated the call this week in its submission to ministers on Atol reform.
So I was as shocked as anyone by the revelation in Travel Weekly’s morning news alert, TWBusiness:am on Tuesday, that the draft regulations on the new Flight-Plus Atol for agents could bring airlines into consumer protection.
We have repeatedly been told this would require primary legislation – in other words, an Act of Parliament. But industry lawyer Peter Stewart, of law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, believes the draft regulations include airlines simply by a failure to exempt them.
If he is right, it’s an extraordinary development. Abta has sought clarification from the Department for Transport (DfT), although the DfT told Travel Weekly the inclusion of holidays sold by airlines would still require legislation.
We shall see. Peter Stewart is not a sharp young lawyer seeking to make his mark, but a man with decades of experience in the industry and a specialist on the Atol scheme.
Most other travel lawyers look up to him and he has proved a thorn in the side of the Civil Aviation Authority, against whom he has acted in landmark cases for Abta and Travel Republic.
Unfortunately, the latest twist on Atol fails to bring the one thing the industry needs more than any other – some clarity. Abta spelled out the flaws in the current proposals in its excellent submission to the DfT.
But so much remains unclear that I fear it’s too much to expect all to be resolved to the satisfaction of most agents.
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