The Civil Aviation Authority insists there is enough time to license every agent who requires a Flight-Plus licence before the start of the new Atol regime on April 30.
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced details of the revised scheme that will bring retailers into Atol consumer protection on Thursday, less than three months before the start date.
CAA consumer protection group deputy director David Moesli said: “We are over the first big hurdle, but never underestimated what it would take to achieve the biggest change in regulatory structure in 30 years.”
Asked whether the CAA could cope with a flood of licensing applications, Moesli said: “It depends whether everyone wants a licence.”
He said: “Agents have a number of choices. They might want a licence, they might want to look at an accredited body or they might want to go back to just selling tour operators’ packages. I’ve heard some companies might consider doing that.”
Moesli conceded: “It would be a challenge if we did not have the plan for accredited bodies. But in combination with these, we don’t have a problem with the time available.”
He insisted licensing many small businesses would not require huge amounts of work or financial scrutiny, saying: “The critical thing for us will be getting their levels of business correct. It’s the level of business agents want to carry that is important. The amount of financial scrutiny on small businesses is negligible.”
Accredited bodies, formerly referred to as ‘approved bodies’, will comprise businesses or consortia that hold a licence on behalf of smaller companies, provide them with Atol cover and accept the financial risk.
Moesli said: “The idea is to provide a way for small companies to get the right protection in place. It’s likely the members of an accredited body will have some limitations placed on the product they sell, and the body will take financial responsibility.”
He confirmed up to seven companies had held exploratory meetings with the CAA on setting up as accredited bodies, including at least one start-up business, but declined to identify any of them.
- Guidance on Atol is available at the CAA website.
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