The Civil Aviation Authority has set a charge of £20,000 for groups to register as Flight-Plus ‘Approved Bodies’ and given the clearest indication yet that Atol reform will be delayed until April.

The CAA’s proposed licensing charges for 2012 include a £20,000 fee for “application for a new approval as an Approved Body”, with a £10,000 annual charge for renewal.
The scale of the charges was greeted with surprise by some of those likely to seek ‘approved body’ status.

Advantage Travel Centres chief executive John McEwan, who is chairman of Abta, said: “This is not in line with our thinking. I am surprised. We would help agents comply. I’m not sure why it should cost that amount.”

McEwan said: “The whole point of the approved bodies is to provide assistance to members and help the CAA, which will have to register hundreds of agents. An approved body can help by handling the administration. Once the Approved Body is set up it should save the CAA money.”

The document makes clear the charges “apply from 1 April 2012”, when the Department for Transport has until recently insisted on a January 1 start date for the reforms. It states the charges are “payable to the CAA on application for grant of an approval as an Approved Body”.

However, the CAA denied this implied a delay to the introduction of the reforms. A CAA spokesman said: “April 1 is the next time we are able to introduce fees. It does not mean January 1 cannot be the date for Atol reform.” He said the CAA could introduce the charges on April 1 and backdate them to January 1.

McEwan has already said Advantage will not have its application for ‘approved body’ status ready for January.

The CAA spokesman added: “We talked to the industry about the charges for an approved body. The charge reflects the amount of work involved in giving ‘approved body’ status. The CAA has to do a lot of work to assess the approved body in the first place.”

McEwan said: “It is the first time these costs have been raised with Advantage.” A DfT announcement on Atol Reform is believed to be imminent.