Abta welcomed the government’s comments on extending Atol protection to airline holidays yesterday as “strong enough” to suggest “they are going to do it”.

In a statement announcing Atol reform, the Department for Transport (DfT) said: “Government should have the power to include the sale of flight-inclusive holidays by airlines in the Atol scheme.” It added: “This should ensure greater clarity.”

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “This is strong enough in terms of intent to suggest they are going to do it.”

Tanzer said the association had been most concerned with the strength of the government’s commitment to bringing airline holidays into Atol, saying: “The language suggests the airlines will have to put up a very strong argument against.” However, he warned: “We need to keep the pressure on.”

In a document summarising its consultation with the industry on reform, the DfT said: “Alternatives [to Atol] mentioned by the airlines do provide some financial protection, [but] it is not as comprehensive as under the Atol scheme.”

However, the DfT made clear the government cannot act to bring flight-only sales by airlines into the regulations without action first in Brussels.

Thomas Cook director of government and external affairs Andy Cooper said: “We are pleased the legislative steps to achieve this [the inclusion of airline holidays] are now underway and urge the government to act as a matter of urgency, ensuring all airlines operating out of the UK be included in the Atol scheme.” 

Tui Travel also welcomed the announcement, noting “the decision by government to consider widening Atol protection to include holidays sold by airlines”. In a statement, the company said: “Equivalent levels of protection should be provided to all customers buying what they consider to be a holiday.”