CAA to clarify tighter rules on seat-only sales

CAA to clarify tighter rules on seat-only sales

The Civil Aviation Authority is poised to clarify revised Atol regulations on flight-only sales by agents, an issue causing alarm following a change announced on February 9.

The Department for Transport wants all flight-only sales of scheduled airlines by third parties protected under Atol despite seats sold by airlines remaining outside the scheme.

The government’s original proposal was that airlines agree to honour all tickets, but the carriers have refused. So the DfT is introducing a new category of Airline Ticket Agents (ATAs) who will be exempt from Atol. However, they will require “a written agency agreement” with each airline they sell.

From April 30, seat-only sales by agents other than ATAs will require Atol cover and the addition of the £2.50 Atol Protection Contribution (APC). Until now agents have been able to sell seat-only as a ticket (or right to fly) provider, which exempted them from Atol and the £2.50 charge.

Abta head of legal services Simon Bunce said: “A lot of agents sell carriers with whom they have no agency agreement. We put it to the Department for Transport that we can’t see the justification.

"This [change] will apply to every agent. But unless they have a written agency agreement they will have to put a flight-only sale under an Atol, even if they issue a ticket there and then.”

Bunce said putting agreements in place would not be straight forward, adding: “It is a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut [and] it has been brought up very late.”

The CAA declined to comment in advance of an announcement, expected today. But when quizzed about the exemption last month, consumer protection group deputy director David Moesli said: “The original proposal was that airlines give an undertaking to honour all tickets. They will now honour only those their own agents sell.”

It is understood that seat-only sales exempt from Atol will need to be accompanied by a statement to the consumer making clear the flight is sold by an agent on behalf of the airline.

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