It has been reported that agents and operators may be asked for up to £250 per person from the government towards the £60 million cost of bringing home Monarch customers following its collapse last week. Customers boarding flights home are being handed a form requesting booking details.
Speaking to TTG at The Travel Convention, Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said that the government would first attempt to recover the costs from credit card companies, but that the bill may in turn land with travel organisers.
“I don’t think any rate has been officially agreed yet,” he said.
“If the cost is greater than what it would have normally cost Atol-holders to bring people back, then they are effectively cross-subsidising. If an excessive cost emerged then we would absolutely resist that.
“For small agencies that had a large number of Monarch flights booked on a company credit card that receive the charge, it could be very painful. We will be making clear to the government that this is not just about large tour operators.”
Tanzer was speaking after a session in which he called for greater transparency from the CAA on Atol protection. He said two changes would now help bring clarity to consumer protection.
“First, the CAA needs to be more transparent in its communications,” said Tanzer.
He explained that Atol regulations state if a business sells just one Atol protected package per year, it must advertise itself as “Atol protected”.
“Only 5% of Monarch’s passengers were travelling on Monarch package holidays, yet to the outside world Monarch was an Atol-protected company,” Tanzer added.
He said the second point that “needs addressing” is the situation regarding customers who bought just airline tickets but were still repatriated.
“The industry is left wondering what is the point of Atol protection if everyone gets brought home anyway? And it sets a precedent for the next airline failure.
“Either the government sticks to the position that if you’re unprotected you’re on your own, or they decide on principle to bring home stranded passengers, in which case they need to have a fighting fund raised by a levy on all airlines.”
He said Abta had long argued for an all-flights levy, and had been “rebutted” by governments.
In a later session Iglu chief executive and Abta board member Richard Downs advocated a 50p levy on all outbound flights from the UK as a way of mitigating any repatriation costs. He said the concepts of package protection and repatriation should be “separated out”.