Experiences in other industries can be a great source of learning.
The big story running recently outside of the travel press has been the super injunction taken out by the premiership footballer, now known to be Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs, which became futile after users revealed his identity on social media site Twitter.
It has become very clear that the UK’s injunction legislation is out-dated and no longer relevant in the digital media age. The same analogy could be made of our Atol regulations. They were created when there were only package tour operators around, before the web existed and before the advent of low cost carriers and dynamic packaging.
It’s abundantly clear to all that they are no longer relevant in 2011, yet still there are people out there who feel that it’s acceptable just to make some “tweaks” to these anachronistic regulations, such as by introducing flight-plus.
Atol needs a full overhaul, starting with a clean sheet of paper. Flight-plus only addresses a small sector of the market, and unfairly burdens those businesses in an uncompetitive way, leaving a whole swathe of the market unaffected.
It is also unlikely to generate sufficient funds to replenish the mounting debts of the Air Travel Trust Fund that backs Atol. Let us not forget that it is the ‘air’ element which is the key driver here, so it seems meaningless to have regulations that do not include the vast majority of flights.
The main reason we have Atol is about more than just consumer protection – you don’t get it if you book a hotel in the UK, or if you pre-order furniture and the supplier goes bust.
Atol cover is there to provide your repatriation if you are stuck abroad. So let’s get behind the wholescale change that is desperately needed in our industry to bring it up to date, rather than supporting yet another fudge.
Ian Brooks was co-founder of Medhotels and Ideal Cruising.
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