Advantage chief executive John McEwan hailed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Information Paper on Atol reform published yesterday as “a step forward”.

However, travel association Abta – which McEwan chairs – gave a cautious response. Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “We will review the CAA’s information paper closely . . . and provide a summary for members shortly.”

As first revealed yesterday, the CAA has issued details and standard terms of the new Flight Plus licence, proposed Atol Certificate and Air Travel Trust payment policies due to come into force next April.

The authority will consult on the details in January. The industry has first to await the decisions of the Department for Transport – expected in December – on a series of outstanding issues.

Tanzer said: “There is still much to be done. The detail behind concepts like approved bodes and the payment policies of the Air Travel Trust Fund trustees are key to determining the workability of the scheme.”

McEwan said the CAA information would help. He told Travel Weekly: “There is more clarity about car hire sold with a package . . . [now we know] the trustees will reimburse a package in full. That is a step forward.

“Flight-only sales will be refunded as well as passengers repatriated – except if it is an agent-for-the-consumer sale – that is good. The CAA has reaffirmed the situation with business travel. That is good news. And there is a little more clarity about the Atol Certificate. We are making good progress.”

However, McEwan stressed: “April is not a long way away. It will be upon us in no time.” CAA consumer protection group deputy director David Moesli described the document issued yesterday as “an interim paper”.

He said: “We expect a government decision [on the outstanding issues] before Christmas and that will trigger a lot of other work.” Abta will canvass members for their views through the association’s Atol policy advisory group and relevant members’ committees.

The Civil Aviation Authority’s Atol Reform Information Paper, issued yesterday, requires some digesting. But the main details are these:

  • Trustees of the Air Travel Trust Fund have agreed to refund as well as repatriate flight-only customers in the event of a failure by an Atol holder.
  • The exception to this will be where a flight has been sold by a retailer acting as an agent for the consumer. Then the fund will only pay for repatriation.  
  • The Air Travel Trust will “contribute” to the costs incurred by Flight Plus holders for rearranging a holiday or refunding a client when a flight supplier fails. But there is no detail on the exact “contribution”. It will depend on the size of the Atol-holder’s business, with upper and lower limits on payments.
  • Flight-Plus holders can expect to pay £25 per passenger for the cost of refunds when making such a claim.
  • Where an agent adds car hire to a package holiday, creating a Flight-Plus arrangement in addition to the Atol-protected package, the trust will refund the full cost of the package, at no fee, should the tour operator fail.
  • Business travel will be excluded from the regulations through an exemption of flight only and Flight Plus sales “made to a corporate entity”.
  • The Atol Certificate will be uniform in appearance but differ in format according to whether it is for a package, a Flight Plus or flight-only sale. The Certificate will be issued at the point of booking, with additions or revisions detailed on a Schedule of Information issued by the Atol holder.