The government has given the clearest signal yet that airline sales of holidays will be brought into Atol protection.
Aviation minister Simon Burns (pictured with David Cameron) told members of Parliament’s Transport Select Committee yesterday that leaving airline holidays outside the Atol scheme “creates regulatory inequality” and “confusion”.
He insisted: “Our intention is to create a level competitive playing field.”
Burns appeared before the committee to report on progress in reforming the Atol Scheme since April.
He said: “We are pleased with the achievements so far. They go a long way to addressing a number of issues raised by the select committee.
“We intend to address some of the remaining issues using new powers in the Civil Aviation Bill … currently awaiting Royal assent.”
The minister told MPs: “At present, holidays sold by airlines are not required to be Atol protected. We feel this creates a regulatory inequality and potential confusion for holidaymakers.
“It is important to have a consistent regulatory framework for businesses selling holidays including a flight, as far as is consistent with EU law.”
He added: “Our intention is to avoid holidaymakers mistakenly thinking they have protection when they don’t.”
Burns confirmed the government would consult on a draft regulation bringing airline sales of holidays into Atol once the Civil Aviation Bill becomes law early next year.
He said: “We expect to launch an impact assessment and consultation in 2013 and our decision will be based on the outcome. The consultation will be on a draft regulation.”
The minister declined to give further details, saying: “I would very much like to, but feel that would be to give too many hostages to fortune.
“We have to fully consider the responses to that consultation, so I hesitate to put a precise timetable on it. [But] I can assure the committee we are determined to do it.”
Burns also confirmed the CAA would launch a campaign to publicise the new Atol Certificate “immediately after Christmas to coincide with people preparing and buying summer holidays”.
Abta head of public affairs Luke Pollard described the minister’s comments as “really encouraging”.
Pollard said: “Abta remains determined to ensure holidays sold by airlines are protected so consumers have peace of mind and the industry can operate in a fairer regulatory environment.
“It’s encouraging the government is looking at holding its consultation on draft regulations early next year.”
Earlier, shadow aviation minister Jim Fitzpatrick told Burns: “It cannot be right for taxpayers to foot the bill for repatriating those who can afford to go on holiday.
“Everybody should be protected and the cost included in the price of a holiday.”
Fitzpatrick added: “A consumer campaign will allow those in the scheme to point the finger at those not in it.”