Government ‘devaluing’ Atol by covering seat only passengers, says SPAA chairman

Government ‘devaluing’ Atol by covering seat only passengers, says SPAA chairman

The government has been accused of “devaluing” the Atol system by repatriating tens of thousands of Monarch passengers who were not covered by the scheme.

SPAA (Scottish Passenger Agents Association) president Alan Glen voiced concern and frustration on the use of tax payers’ money to bring home around 90,000 customers who were not protected by the scheme.

He said the government has essentially given ‘free’ Atol protection to seat only, who the SPAA has been advocating a £1 levy on for 12 years.

Glen said: “Of the 110,000 Monarch passengers who were repatriated from abroad when the airline collapsed, it appears that only 20,000 were actually covered by the ATOL system – which is administered by the CAA and funded by the Atol Protection Contribution (APC). It seems that it was actually a government decision to instruct the CAA to bring back the other 90,000 passengers at the taxpayers’ expense.

“Obviously, bringing back the stranded travellers was the right thing to do. Why they were not already covered by the Atol system or another form of financial protection is entirely another question.

“For many years during the numerous Atol consultations held by the CAA, the SPAA have advocated the need for the Atol protection system to be extended to cover ‘seat only’ sales made by airlines direct to the public. At the moment, there is no consumer protection for this kind of sale. As long as 12 years ago, we proposed a £1 levy on all scheduled airfares to provide financial protection for seat only sales. Successive governments have failed to heed the advice or warnings, citing that a change in legislation was required to do so.

“Fast forward to 2017 and here we have an airline gone bust and the government choosing to meet the costs of repatriation of ‘seat only’ customers at taxpayers’ expense. It seems the government quite rightly feared the consumer backlash if it became apparent that there was no consumer protection in place. However, by ‘bailing out’ the unprotected passengers, they are devaluing the Atol system by effectively providing ‘free’ Atol coverage to those not actually in the scheme.

“As an ATOL holder myself, I have to say it does rankle. What is the point of consultation after consultation, when it seems that nobody listens to what is the blatantly obvious? If anything good comes out of this debacle, let’s hope it is that those with the power to change things, begin to listen.”

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