The Department for Transport published details of the new Flight-Plus Atol for travel retailers this morning following a parliamentary statement by transport minister Theresa Villiers.
The hefty document triggers a 12-week consultation on the extension of financial protection to travellers buying a flight and accommodation or car hire as separate components from a single retailer. The government aims to have the new flight-plus licence in place by January 1.
Holders of new Atol will be responsible for replacing parts of a holiday lost to a consumer if a component supplier, such as an airline, should fail.
However, the document makes clear Flight-Plus Atol-holders will not be brought within the Package Travel Regulations which apply to tour operators.
It also assures agents they will not become liable for VAT under the Tour Operators Margin Fund (TOMS) – a major concern for many retailers since the reform was announced in February.
The DfT document acknowledges retailers may avoid the requirement to hold a Flight-Plus Atol by acting as an agent for the consumer. However, it makes clear agents acting in this way “must be fully aware of their responsibility to consumers”. This will include a responsibility to inform purchasers they will not be refunded if a company fails.
The flight-plus licence will be introduced alongside a standardised Atol Certificate to be issued to all customers.
The document lays out a timetable for further reform, including primary legislation to include flight-plus holiday sales by airlines as well as action to bring agent for the customer sales within the Atol regulations. Either or both reforms could be passed by May 2013, says the DfT.
An annex to the document reveals the Civil Aviation Authority will waive its current rules for new Atol-holders to provide a bond for four years, where appropriate.
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