Advantage Travel Centres has called for flight-only sales to be removed from Atol protection until all airlines are brought into the scheme and says the January 1 deadline “is simply not achievable”.
In a document submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) ahead of today’s consultation deadline, Advantage says: “The problems that exist will not be rectified by these proposals and the reform is unlikely to bring clarity to the consumer or the trade.”
The agency consortium insists: “Our overriding concern is that airlines be brought into the Atol regime. . . The proposals would further erode the competitiveness of our members.”
It advocates “moving flight-only totally out of the scheme”, arguing: “Airlines have been the cause of much of the call on the Air Travel Trust Fund.” The consortium also notes: “Advantage and its members are strongly against the suggestion that ‘agent for the consumer’ could be an option. This loophole needs to be removed.”
Advantage chief executive John McEwan told Travel Weekly: “Airlines have to be included for the sake of clarity for consumers and to create a level playing field. All flights should be in. If that is not possible, our minimum position is that all holidays should be protected and flight-only should come out.”
The consortium’s submission criticises the lack of detail in the DfT proposals, saying: “We have little or very fragmented information on how it will impact on our business . . . details of how processes would work have not been made clear.”
Advantage has previously said it would welcome a role as an approved body for its members. But it says: “There are fundamental questions on how this can be achieved, with not enough information available.”
The consortium questions whether the required agency agreements can be in place by January 1, given the “lack of information as to the compulsory terms”.
It also raises concerns about the proposed Atol Certificate and suggests an online registration system instead, arguing: “Most Atol holders would not want a non-Atol holder to issue a certificate on their behalf. . . The answer is online registration to provide unique Atol numbers.”
McEwan said: “The timetable and its sheer impracticality are a major concern. We have spoken to technology companies and their response has been they cannot comment on the time it would take to make system changes because they have not seen any specifications – and they won’t until October or November at the earliest.”