The chair of the CAA has admitted to TTG she hopes there will be a new insolvency regime introduced in future that will be “easier to manage”, should the travel industry witness another big failure, writes Simon Calder for TTG.
Speaking onboard a Thomas Cook repatriation flight from Manchester to Palma, Deirdre Hutton was asked whether the move to repatriate tens of thousands of non-Atol protected customers was now the “new norm” in the event of a travel failure.
“I think you have to just look at the sheer practicality of having to separate Atol-protected and non-Atol protected [customers] at foreign airports,” she replied.
“The truth of the matter is this was a decision by government who asked us to repatriate everyone. I hope that we will in future have another look at the insolvency regime and see if there is a way of doing it which is perhaps easier to manage than this one has been.”
Questioned whether this could mean the sector is likely to see a radical overhaul of the Atol scheme, Hutton insisted: “I think that’s entirely up to government – you will have heard from both the secretary of state for transport and the prime minister talking about the need to look again at the insolvency regime. And of course at the CAA we very much welcome that.”
Hutton revealed the CAA had “learned a huge amount” from the collapse of Monarch, which enabled it to be in a “better position” to cope with the fallout from Thomas Cook.
“We did a very big ‘lessons learned’ exercise after Monarch about how to run an operation like this. We also realised we needed to up our game just on contingency planning after Monarch, so we were in a better prepared position than we would have been otherwise.”
However Hutton insisted she did not anticipate significant further travel failures in the immediate term. “We see small 15-20 small-scale failure every year that we cope with quite easily. We don’t see anything else coming up that causes us concern, no.”
Elsewhere, Hutton was quizzed about what the message would be to travel agents “who have been faithfully putting across the idea that you’ve got to book a proper package holiday with proper Atol protection”, and was asked: “What assurance can you give them that this is a wise thing to do if the public are getting a different idea?”
“If you think of the fact that there are 360,00 [Thomas Cook] forward bookings which encompasses 800,000 individuals – those people, because they’re Atol-protected, are all going to get refunds. That’s the message,” she insisted.