Travel Counsellors, the only travel organisation to date to be granted Atol Flight-Plus approved body status, has moved to allay concerns that the new form of Atol will be a “field day for lawyers”.
Responding to concerns by Professor David Grant reported by travelweekly.co.uk last week, Travel Counsellors chairman David Speakman said it has put in measures to address a potential loophole in the regulations.
Specifically Professor Grant said he was concerned about the 48-hour rule governing the amount of time allowable between the booking of different components of a package that make the sale Flight-Plus – the sale of a flight plus one other significant holiday component.
He said: “A Flight-Plus booking will be created when a customer ‘requests to book’ a flight and accommodation. If I want to go to Australia, I may book a flight for six months’ time and say I want accommodation but will wait to book it. Is that a Flight-Plus?
“There is a grey area and lawyers can have a field day with it.”
Speakman said under its own rules there is no time limit. “We have decided it should never have been 48 hours – it’s a loophole,” said Speakman.
“Basically anything booked up until the date of departure we will make it a Flight-Plus package. We decided this straight away, it was a no-brainer. We always thought 48 hours was unworkable.
“It gives the wrong message to the consumer. They just want it to be simple and we think it’s better commercially for us because the consumer can book with us whenever they want and they know they are protected.”
Speakman said he hoped any legal challenges to Flight-Plus are brought to court soon after the legislation in enacted so that there can be clarity through case law.
“If people want to have a field day, let’s do it, the sooner everything gets defined in case law the better. We’re in a better situation than previously when we it took us 16 years to decide how to define a package.”
Speakman also confirmed Travel Counsellors will be issuing Atol certificates to customers earlier than the October 1 deadline.
This followed a similar promise from Hays Travel managing director John Hays at its Independence Group independent travel agency consortium conference last week.
Professor Grant was speaking to Travel Weekly ahead of a free Vantage Insurance Atol seminar on March 29 entitled 'Do you know your Flight-Plus from your package holiday?'.
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