Opinion: Flight-Plus Atol reform is a real headache for agents

Opinion: Flight-Plus Atol reform is a real headache for agents

Akin Koc, managing director, Anatolian Sky Holidays

Anatolian Sky Holidays recently sponsored the Abta agent general meeting in the Midlands and I was interested at the high number of agents who turned up to hear about the new Atol reforms.

We have sponsored these events many times in the past and the numbers were particularly high for this meeting as many agents are rightly concerned about the Atol Flight-Plus reforms that are coming soon.

To me, Flight-Plus means ‘flight headaches’. I feel agents will be opening themselves up for huge responsibilities and will be in danger of becoming indistinguishable from operators.

The new Atol certificate that is also being introduced seems fair as previously the agent had been acting like an operator and selling products by dynamically packaging them, but without having any real responsibility. 

However, with the new regulations the agent will have added responsibility for every dynamically packaged holiday they sell.

Only a very brave agent would pick a hotel they had never seen and sell it to their clients. 

Agents will be cautious about offering something different, so will be more likely to book mass market hotels rather than individual properties.

This would be a real shame for both specialist operators and the end consumer as not everyone is looking for the same holiday.

Regulations could mean smaller and more unique hotels are overlooked because of the risk involved to agents.

Tour operators like Anatolian Sky are proud Aito members who specialise in unspoilt areas and have very strict control over the accommodation that they sell, taking into consideration health and safety as well as personal service. 

I believe small businesses like ours focus on client satisfaction and it is therefore in the agents’ interest to use specialist operators rather than use Flight-Plus.

We can take the responsibility of recommending interesting, off-the-beaten-track holidays and do all the hard work.

In my view, there can only be many headaches for agents involved in Flight-Plus with high levels of responsibility expected by the CAA. 

Once they get involved in signing up to the Flight-Plus they won’t be able to get out and I wouldn’t be surprised if the regulations change in a year or so meaning that working under Flight-Plus is no different to being an operator.

More and more responsibilities will be forced onto the agents and they will regret signing up to it.

Agents should really think hard about signing up and assess whether it is worth it in the long term.

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