Comment: Is Atol reform finally on cards?

Comment: Is Atol reform finally on cards?

Has the penny finally dropped? This week’s long-overdue concession by transport secretary Chris Grayling that the current Atol system may need looking at again suggests maybe it has.

The travel industry has been calling for an all-flights levy and a separation of repatriation from financial protection for as long as I can remember.

Unfortunately, it’s taken the largest collapse in UK aviation history to demonstrate that when push came to shove, existing rules were not enforced.

As we saw this week at Abta’s Travel Convention, this is the cause of considerable frustration and anger in the trade.

Companies have every right to feel aggrieved if rules are being ignored in a crisis and yet otherwise strictly enforced on them when circumstances are more benign.

Travel firms that play by the rules are stakeholders and their views should be heeded. Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer didn’t mince his words when opening this week’s Travel Convention and he spoke for many.

Airlines have always argued they don’t fail. Wrong. It’s also been claimed applying a levy on carriers not based in the UK is not possible. Ever heard of APD? It raises £3 billion a year. Why not take a slice of that, as Norwegian’s Dominic Tucker suggested at the convention?

As Abta director Richard Downs pointed out, just 50p on the UK’s 250 million flight passengers would be more than enough.

The government has done a remarkable job organising the £60 million Monarch repatriation it deemed necessary.

But it’s the taxpayer, the travel industry and banks that will ultimately foot the bill.

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