One leading travel agency consortium says it has had only a small number of agency agreements returned to it but that it was hopeful it will have most back before new Atol Flight Plus regulations come in.
Agents were given an update on Atol at a business partner forum on Friday organised by The Travel Network Group, which includes both TTA and Worldchoice consortia.
Gary Lewis, group managing director, said a crunch point could come when agency agreements are still being sought but the new regulations have come in.
The CAA has given the trade a month’s grace after the official April 30 deadline to allow for agents and operators to prepare themselves for the changes.
Lewis told Travel Weekly the group was actively working with its suppliers and he was confident that the vast majority of agency agreements would be in place by then.
But he told agents: “As we speak there is not a huge number of business partners who we have received those agency agreements from.
“If we do not have an agency agreement in place there comes a time when we have to say we cannot deal with you. I am sure the agency agreements will be in place.”
Work to finalise agency agreements could only start after the CAA published its standard terms and this only happened in February.
Lewis said the consortium would take much of the burden away from agents by dealing with suppliers, but agents who wanted to sell operators who were not business partners would have to do that themselves.
Mark Hyde, the CAA’s head of Atol enforcement, said the standard terms were available on the authority’s website now for operators to download.
Agency agreements will be assumed to be in place once agents start selling operators’ products after Flight-Plus comes in.
Agents do not have to sign and return the agreement, but it will be a criminal offence if they cannot demonstrate one is in place after May 30.
Lewis said The Travel Network Group was ready for the changes to Atol after what has been a long drawn-out process but that late changes being made to the rules had caused problems.
“We have had the documentation and consultation for so long on certain things and yet still there are changes being made.
“In some ways that’s a good thing in that it shows the CAA and Department for Transport are listening. If the facts change, you should change, but it’s very late, and sometimes feels like chaos.
“We know enough now for most people to understand what they have to do.”
The Travel Network Group announced the return of its overseas conference in 2013, with Slovenia chosen to provide an alternative and affordable destination for members.
Lewis urged all members, including TTA agents who do not traditionally have an overseas conference to attend, to demonstrate to business partners the strength of the group and support it gives them.
The two-day event will take place between May 17 and 19 and will cost around £185 per person.
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