Abta responded to the Department for Transport’s confirmation of an April 30 start date for Flight-Plus yesterday by labelling it “unrealistic”.

The DfT published the final version of the new Atol Regulations that will see hundreds of retailers require Atol licences for the first time on Wednesday, barely three weeks ahead of the deadline.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Abta supports the extension of consumer protection and believes Flight-Plus is the first step towards achieving this.

“However, the industry has been awaiting publication of the Regulations for some time. Securing an Atol requires applying for a licence and securing financial protection. It is unrealistic to expect businesses to do this in 14 working days.”

Abta said it requested the government reconsider the timetable to give businesses more time. Tanzer said: “That the government has chosen not to, underestimates the complexity of the administration process travel businesses must undertake to ensure they comply.”

He called it “a missed opportunity to ensure more travel arrangements are financially protected from the date of launch”.

Tanzer said: “There are just 14 working days to go until the April deadline yet we are still waiting for clarity on key elements of the proposals. Until the list of exemptions and Standard Terms are published, many travel businesses may still be unsure what kind of Atol cover they need.”

He added: “The majority of our members have been doing all they can to understand and prepare for the changes.”

The Civil Aviation Authority is expected to issue revised Standard Terms for Atol holders today (Thursday).

Abta said it expects to announce details on the launch and application process for the Abta-Atol Joint Administration Scheme “shortly”. Member businesses with licensable turnover of up to £1.5 million will be eligible to apply for the scheme in order to comply with the Flight-Plus regulations.