Speaking today at ABTA’s Travel Law Seminar, Kate Jennings, Head Aviation Policy Implementation for the Department for Transport, confirmed that the government still expects reform of the current system of ATOL financial protection to be introduced in January 2012 despite delays in publishing the consultation on the draft regulations. The long-awaited DfT consultation on the draft regulations is expected “shortly” and is expected to lay out not only the wording of the new regulations but also invite views on extending ATOL protection to cover airlines too.
ABTA has called for the ATOL scheme to be extended to cover holidays, however they are booked, to extend consumer protection and enhance consumer clarity. ABTA believes the revised ATOL system should not only include ‘Flight Plus’ arrangements but should also cover click through sales and airlines within the protection regime.
Ms Jennings stated that the government wanted to use the forthcoming consultation on ATOL Reform to take a more “holistic view” of consumer financial protection arrangements. She described the proposals for reform as they are currently set out as a “sticking plaster” to address the immediate concerns of Ministers, including filling the deficit in the Air Travel Trust Fund. Following comments by Aviation Minister, Theresa Villiers, last week that the government is considering primary legislation to include airlines within the ATOL reform Ms Jennings confirmed that the consultation will invite views from the industry on bringing airline holiday sales within scope of the ATOL scheme. Views will also be invite on primary legislation to address the “agent for the consumer” exemption.
Simon Bunce, ABTA Head of Legal Services said: “Today has highlighted just how important the next phase of consultation on ATOL Reform is. As an industry, we need to continue to get the message through to government that the exclusion of airlines and click-through sales from these arrangements will cause confusion among consumers and create an unlevel playing field for the industry. ”