Travel firms are retraining staff to improve their understanding of Atol protection following a damning report released in the wake of Monarch’s failure.
Companies quizzed in Which? Travel’s report called on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to improve training and pointed out Atol regulation is complex and difficult to understand.
The survey highlighted a “lack of knowledge” among staff on which holidays are Atol-protected. The report, published in June to Which? members, was released publicly after last week’s collapse of Monarch.
Posing as customers, Which? made 80 calls to Thomas Cook, British Airways, Bravofly, Travelpack, lastminute.com, Trailfinders, Expedia and Travel Republic. Only 10 calls gave entirely correct answers. Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said it was “not good enough” that sales staff didn’t understand the rules “given the recent chaos”.
Cook staff were reported to have got 45% of questions right. Agents struggled to answer whether holidaymakers were protected when booking a flight and hotel at the same time or if the hotel was booked the next day. Staff answered “don’t know” to more questions than any other company.
The report branded the score “terrible results for Britain’s best-known travel agent”. Cook is the UK’s second-largest Atol holder.
A Cook spokesman said retail and online systems automatically assign the correct Atol protection to products bought and said the company was working on “refresher information” for staff.
He added: “The Atol scheme is a complex area but we need to make sure our colleagues have the necessary regular training so they can give customers the best advice.”
Tour operator and consolidator Travelpack, which scored 60%, has produced a staff training document following the report.
Director Vishal Patel urged the CAA to be more rigorous in ensuring the trade understands regulation, adding: “There could be mandatory training for Atol holders so they know what to say in the event of a failure.”
Andy Washington, dnata Travel’s chief executive B2C Europe, which includes Travel Republic, said: “Whilst we are proud and happy Travel Republic scored highly, we would want to see 100% across the board. Customers are fundamental to us and we strive for perfection on this front.
“However, this simply highlights that consumer protection is complex, confusing and challenging for us as an industry, let alone the customer. We need reform – but simple reform that is clear to all and covers all sectors of the industry”
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