Rhys Griffiths, head of travel at law firm Fieldfisher, said the biggest problem for the trade following Monarch’s closure on October 2 had been finding replacement flights for customers with forward bookings – which many agents then had to foot the bill for, after mistakenly telling customers that flight-only bookings were Atol-protected.
The CAA lifted its Atol requirement for Monarch flight-only sales in December 2016.
Speaking at the Association of Atol Bonded Travel Organisers Trust (Abtot) seminar in London this week, Griffiths explained many agents had got their advice wrong about the Atol scheme on their websites and in their terms and conditions, and had mistakenly told clients that flight-only bookings were covered by Atol if an airline went out of business.
“There were lots of errors in customer-facing literature about the Atol scheme and how it works,” said Griffiths.
“On many occasions they said flight-only sales were protected.
“There’s been quite a lot of adverse publicity, with customers phoning up having read a bit on the website saying that flights were protected if the airline goes bust.
“In this situation, these travel companies have had to do the right thing and do what their website said they would do, and that’s to pay up.”
Griffiths added that some agents could recoup some of the costs of Monarch’s failure by making a chargeback claim to their credit or debit card company.
“Lots of travel companies use a corporate card or debit card to pay for flights,” he said. “Agents can still make claims under Mastercard or Visa credit scheme rules.
“Some card issuers are dealing with a huge volume of these claims so the process is quite slow but card issuers have paid out quite quickly.”