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11 Oct 2017

BY Sophie Griffiths


Leader: For once, a welcome ear

It’s not often the government is seen to be listening to the industry’s concerns. And it’s even more rare that it acts on them.

Sophie Griffiths Leader image

But transport secretary Chris Grayling surprised the sector this week by not only acknowledging its concerns over the government’s response to the repatriation of Monarch customers, but by informing his fellow MPs in the House of Commons that “efforts [would] turn to working through the reforms necessary to ensure passengers do not find themselves in this position again”.

The statement will be welcome news to the industry, which has been left frustrated by the government’s decision to repatriate all those stranded abroad, regardless of their Atol cover (or lack of).

As Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer highlighted at The Travel Convention, it left the industry “wondering what is the point of Atol protection if everyone gets brought home anyway?”. And it sets a precedent for the next airline failure, where customers would likely expect the same free repatriation.

Grayling’s statement is the closest we’re likely to come to an admission from government that the current situation is not sustainable.

Change is needed but how will it be achieved? At the convention, Iglu chief executive Richard Downs suggested a 50p levy on all outbound flights from the UK.

With 250 million flight passengers annually from the UK, such a charge, minimal though it is, would surely cover the repatriation of customers should an airline fail again?

And yet similar moves have been rebutted by successive governments. If the Monarch debacle doesn’t make, as Tanzer said, an “unanswerable and urgent case for revisiting the issue”, it’s unlikely the sector will see any change in the months to come.

“There are clouds on the horizon for 2018,” said Tanzer as he concluded his speech. But it seems the storms of 2017 are far from over.

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