The Civil Aviation Authority has said it will not budge on industry demands for a fresh exemption from the Flight-Plus regulations for flight-only bookings made with agency corporate credit cards.
Abta continues to lobby hard on the issue after winning an exemption for seat-only bookings made with customers’ credit cards.
The Flight-Plus regulations, requiring many retailers to have an Atol licence for the first time, came into force this week although companies have a period of grace in which to comply.
Abta chairman John McEwan, chief executive of Advantage Travel Centres, said: “There is an anomaly on flight-only. If an agent uses a corporate card, the booking is not exempt from Flight-Plus. That is the one sticking point we have.”
However, CAA head of Atol licensing Andy Cohen said: “If we exempt a sale we have to feel we are not putting consumers at risk. We can't exempt sales and then have consumers losing money.
“We’re talking about flight-only sales of low-cost carriers here. If an airline goes bust and the booking was made with a customer's credit card, the payment is protected. The customer has protection if they pay direct to the supplier.
“But if the agent pays with a corporate card, what if the airline goes bust?” In that case, he said, any refund would go to the agent.
McEwan insisted: “There is no risk to the consumer’s money.”
He said: “Abta is continuing the dialogue with the CAA. The Department for Transport may not appreciate there is no risk to the consumer's funds.”
Cohen told Travel Weekly: “We have agreed to keep this under review and we are continuing discussions, but at the moment we see no reason to change.”
He added: “It would be quick and easy to make amendments.”
Speaking at the Advantage conference in Malta at the weekend, Advantage corporate director Ken McLeod said the changes had “made life more difficult” for retailers. “The CAA is going to need to be flexible,” he said.