‘Spanair shows need for Atol reform’ says OTA association

The association representing leading online agencies has backed reforms to the UK Atol system, calling them “a splendid opportunity” to close the gaps in consumer protection across the European Union.

The European Technology and Travel Services Association (ETTSA) said the collapse of Spanish carrier Spanair at the weekend exposed the current failure of financial protection.

In evidence to the UK Parliament’s Transport Select Committee, ETTSA called for a level playing field for agencies and airlines, which remain outside the Atol regulations.

ETTSA secretary general Christoph Klenner said: “Any Atol scheme that does not cover airlines is out of touch with reality.

“Online travel agencies cover customers who booked airline tickets as part of a package, but those who booked direct with a bankrupt airline are left in the cold.

“The revision of the UK Atol scheme presents a splendid opportunity to remedy this situation. The Atol scheme needs to provide equal protection for passengers regardless of who they booked trips with.”

The UK Department for Transport has included a clause that would bring airline sales of holidays into the Atol scheme in the Civil Aviation Bill now before Parliament.

ETTSA also called for assessment of the financial impact of the Atol reforms, arguing the costs to online retailers would be higher than to “conventional travel agents”.

The association includes Expedia, Ebookers and Opodo among its members as well as owners of the major global distribution systems (GDSs) Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport.

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