Abta is close to unveiling a common Atol-licensing arrangement with the CAA following the government decision to reform the scheme from April 30.

The CAA and Abta have been in talks for months on how to help members comply with the Flight-Plus regulations. Transport minister Theresa Villiers announced the final shape of reform last Thursday. Abta expects 630 members to need licences for the first time to cover separate sales of flights plus accommodation. The CAA puts the total number of businesses affected at 1,900.

Abta had hoped to hold an Atol on behalf of members as an Accredited Body, but that would mean taking financial responsibility when businesses fail. Abta now proposes a deal with the CAA that would cut the cost of compliance.

Companies already bond with Abta and currently those acquiring their first Atol must provide a bond or other guarantee for the CAA. The plan would remove the need for double bonding by using an enhanced Abta bond for both. The CAA confirmed agreement is near, saying: “Abta is keen for it to happen.”

Other trade organisations are considering plans to become Accredited Bodies or establish trust arrangements. The Travel Network Group said it is preparing “systems and processes to accommodate the reforms” for Worldchoice agents, while Advantage is finalising a trust setup for its members.

Hays Travel has yet to confirm whether it will seek Accredited Body status. But managing director John Hays said: “Overall, I am pleased.”

Elite Travel Group is advising members to book Atol-protected packages while it seeks clarity on the reforms. Board director Bob Grinsell said: “Our members are still confused. There are agents who think they need piles of paper.”

Retailers face two deadlines: April 30 to arrange Atol cover or cease making Flight-Plus bookings and October 1 to be ready to issue Atol Certificates. Breaching the rules could be a criminal offence, but the CAA has no plans for strict enforcement until October.