The official Atol advisory body to the government has criticised aspects of the Flight-Plus proposals and expressed concern about the difficulty of linking holiday arrangements bought at different times.
The Air Travel Insolvency Protection Advisory Committee (Atipac) has told ministers the draft Flight-Plus definition would mean agents who add car hire to an Atol-protected package would need a licence and have to levy an extra Atol Protection Contribution of £2.50.
In its response to a Department for Transport (DfT) consultation, published this morning, Atipac notes this would make the agent “potentially liable for the tour operator’s package” and says: “This cannot be the government’s intention.”
The committee notes “package businesses have no difficulty” with plans to link holiday arrangements bought separately on the same or consecutive days.
But it argues: “The IT systems of some retail and online travel businesses would be unable to link an initial purchase with a subsequent purchase within the defined period.”
It reports a consensus that most bookings would be made within 24 hours, but warns: “There are significant variations to this.” However, its members were unable to agree on an alternative proposal.
Atipac joins many in the trade in querying the “ambitious timescale” for reform, saying: “Correct and sustained implementation should not be compromised by continuing with a timescale which results in patchy and incomplete cover.”
It also adds its voice to the chorus demanding the inclusion of airlines and all airline seats. The Atipac submission states: “Airlines should be brought into the scheme with primary legislation so the protection scheme can be extended to sales not only of airline packages/Flight-Plus but also of flights sales.”
This is significant as the committee includes not just members of the trade, but CAA consumer protection group director Richard Jackson, Trading Standards lead officer for travel Bruce Treloar and consumer representatives.
Atipac also demands the removal of Flight-Only sales from Atol protection unless all flight-only is included. The DfT proposals would leave flight-only charter sales in, but scheduled airline sales out of Atol protection.
The submission includes a warning from trade members of the committee that there is “reduced availability [of insolvency insurance] and, where available, it is at high cost”. Atipac was set up by the government to advise the CAA, the DfT and trustees of the Air Travel Trust.