Travel companies will require Atol cover for the sale of Flight-Plus holidays from April despite the announcement this week of a delay in implementing some of the planned reforms to the consumer-protection scheme.
Online and high street agents will also need to have agency agreements in place with suppliers by April.
The delay to October announced by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Tuesday will apply to the introduction of the new Atol Certificate, given the changes to IT systems required.
CAA consumer protection group director Richard Jackson revealed the switch to a two-stage introduction of Atol reform when he appeared before Parliament’s Transport Select Committee on Tuesday.
Jackson told the committee: “There will be sensible implementation. We will wait until probably October 1 for all the changes required to systems.”
The CAA declined to comment on the transitional arrangements ahead of an announcement from the Department for Transport (DfT).
However, Travel Weekly understands the licensing reforms will apply from April as planned and companies will be in breach of the regulations if they sell Flight-Plus holidays without Atol cover.
It is thought the implementation date may be mid-April. Retailers will also need to have agency agreements drawn up although it is unlikely the CAA will require full evidence of these from the start date.
The biggest immediate challenge will be arranging Atols for hundreds of previously unlicensed businesses, along with the financial guarantees required by the CAA. However, the regulator has signalled it remains confident there is sufficient time to finalise licence arrangements.
Abta remains in talks with the CAA on a means to provide collective Atol-cover for members given that it will not take the status of an ‘Atol Approved Body’ – final details of which will also be announced shortly.
The association believes it can come to an arrangement whereby the bonds already provided by members will be accepted as financial guarantees for Atol purposes.
This would involve some extension of the bonds and therefore additional expense, but avoid the need for ‘double-bonding’. It would also avoid Abta taking financial responsibility for member companies.
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