Agents have won a month’s ‘extension’ to the April 30 deadline for compliance with the new Flight-Plus Atol Regulations which require many retailers to apply for licences for the first time.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced today it would treat May as “a transition period” following the agreement of the Department for Transport (DfT).
CAA consumer protection group director Richard Jackson said: “Acknowledging the concerns raised by industry, we have agreed several measures to allow a transition period during May 2012.
“This approach to the changing regulations will mean consumers retain protection during May, but allow the industry increased time to prepare during one of the busiest points in the year.”
However, Jackson said: “A huge amount of work has gone into helping the industry get ready, so this should in no way be a case of agents starting from scratch.”
He added: “On the whole, agents are aware of the coming changes and are taking the necessary steps to make sure they are ready.”
During May, the CAA said it would focus on "education and assistance" to the industry in meeting the regulatory requirements, except where businesses are not taking steps to comply.
The Air Travel Trust said it would "consider sympathetically" consumer claims for package and flight-only sales where sales were made by agents lacking agency agreements or where the documentation falls short of the new requirements.
Under the new legal framework, if a business making Flight-Plus sales does not hold an Atol and one of its Atol-holding seat suppliers fails, the ATT would not meet its customers’ claims. These would be the responsibility of the Flight-Plus business.
However, the ATT has announced that during May, provided an unlicensed Flight-Plus business has applied for an Atol and is making satisfactory progress toward obtaining it, the ATT will meet claims arising from the insolvency of any of its Atol-holding seat suppliers, under the same terms as if they held an Atol.
From June 1 the CAA will return to its normal enforcement stance and ATT payment policies.
The announcement followed extensive lobbying by Abta. The association greeted confirmation of the April 30 start date by the DfT last week by declaring it “unrealistic”.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “The government underestimates the complexity of the administration process businesses must undertake to ensure they comply. Securing an Atol requires applying for a licence and securing financial protection.”
The association’s head of financial protection John de Vial told Travel Weekly: “People are not going to be fully compliant by April 30.”
Jackson said: “While it’s clear an extremely busy time lies ahead, we should not forget why these changes are being made: to offer UK customers better protection for holidays.”