Double protection on flight-plus packages confirmed

Agents who add car hire to a package-holiday booking will be creating a Flight Plus Atol arrangement and will need to provide cover and charge an additional £2.50 Atol Protection Contribution (APC).

The Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed the requirement for a double payment would be part of the Flight Plus Atol reforms now due to come into force next April.

Transport secretary Theresa Villiers announced a postponement of the planned January launch of the reforms on Tuesday.

The DfT issued clarification on a series of issues industry members raised in the recent consultation yesterday. In a statement, the DfT said: “The aim of Flight Plus is to ensure holidays are protected as a whole, and this includes sales where an agent sells a package and adds an additional service, such as car hire.”

The Department said it considers it “desirable there is a linked, statutory financial protection for the package and car hire. These sales will attract two APC payments.” The DfT acknowledged this would make the agent potentially liable for the package holiday as well as the car hire if the tour operator supplying the package should fail.

However, it said the trustees of the Air Travel Trust are considering paying the full cost of the package in the event of such a failure – although it warned “any decision is at the discretion of the trustees”. The industry has demanded, and the CAA has promised, clarification on this.

CAA consumer protection group deputy director David Moesli told Abta’s Travel Convention in early October: “We need to know the DfT’s intentions [on covering the package costs]. When we know, I will ensure the trustees say in black and white.”

The DfT also confirmed that agents acting as Flight Plus arrangers will be subject to the same liability as a tour operator where travel services are not delivered following a client’s departure on holiday.

In such cases, agents will be responsible for making alternative arrangements for a customer at no extra cost or providing a full refund. The DfT warned: “There are risks to the Flight Plus arranger from taking on this responsibility”.

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