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Travel industry news

23 Mar 2018

BY James Chapple


Abta urges government to defer Atol changes beyond PTD

Abta is urging the government to defer the introduction of any matters in the draft Atol standard terms which go above and beyond changes set out in the EU’s Package Travel Directive (PTD).


Abta urges government to defer Atol changes beyond PTD

The Department for Transport (DfT) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last month launched fresh consultations on changes to the Atol scheme, ahead of the proposed imposition of PTD on July 1.


Agents and other stakeholders had until Friday (March 23) to respond, with Abta urging its members to submit their thoughts to association as well in order to better inform its response to the DfT and the CAA.


The DfT consultation looked at broadening the scope of Atol protection under a new definition of a “package” and by updating which groups need Atol licences.


The CAA’s “modernising Atol” consultation, meanwhile, sought to update what it expects of Atol licencees under the standard terms.


Abta has already warned it believes there are aspects of the new regulations and standard terms that go beyond what is required by PTD when it is introduced on July 1 and has asked for a more flexible timetable for any such additional changes.


Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, previously told TTG agents in particular had been put in a difficult position by the late negotiations on Atol terms and the introduction of PTD, with the definition of a “package” still unknown at this stage.


PTD was outlined in December 2015 and EU governments were given until January 2018 to transpose it into national law. However, the UK’s Package Travel Regulations (PTR), the legislation that will enshrine PTD in law, are yet to be published.


In its formal response to the latest consultation, Abta said: "Abta believes implementation of the Package Travel Directive 2015 must be the overriding, immediate, priority for both regulators and the travel industry, especially given the lack of available time for businesses to adjust to regulatory changes before implementation deadline of July 1.


"Member states were required to have put in place the required implementing laws for the 2015 PTD by January 1, 2018.


"Any broader changes to the basic operation of the Atol scheme, which are not necessary for the implementation of PTD, should be subject to a thorough consultation process with the industry and appropriate implementation lead times.


"We recognise the government has left itself very little time to consider alternative proposals. We would urge further consideration of these matters, where the opportunity exists."


Abta added it was difficult for members to fully address any aspects of the consultation with PTR not having yet been published or put out to consultation across the industry.


On the DfT consultation specifically, Abta raised:


  • Risk of confusion about how and whether travellers’ monies are protected, given that flight-based Linked Travel Arrangements will be outside of the Atol scheme, but the flight element as a flight-only sale with be within the Atol scheme. Abta believes this should be reviewed.
  • Updating the Atol scheme so holding an Atol will allow UK businesses to sell packages to consumers in Europe represents an opportunity for many travel companies and will be welcomed by many.
  • While Abta supports the CAA being given more flexibility in enforcing the Atol regime, we believe further detail is required on how these sanctions would be used in practice. Abta is certainly aware of dissatisfaction from agents for Atol holders, where the Atol holders have not issued accurate agency agreements, and it would seem anything that allows the CAA to deliver a more flexible and effective response to such failings would be welcome.

And on the CAA consultation, the association added:


  • The CAA should come back to the industry with a fully worked up proposals outlining what will be expected of Atol holders in future, in terms of providing information before and after sale, and open it up for consultation. Travel businesses should be allowed time to implement the changes necessary for compliance with PTD before introducing further changes.
  • Transitional arrangements will be necessary to allow businesses and CAA to adapt to the new rules so we welcome the proposed transitional arrangements.
  • Abta Members have raised a number of queries about online Atol certificates, while not being entirely opposed in principle. More information is needed including on the costs, speed and funding of the system.
  • We believe anything in the draft Atol standard terms which is additional to PTD should not be brought in by July 1, instead further consultation should be done with industry to flesh out the detail, and give businesses time to adapt to PTD before taking on more changes.
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