Aviation minister Simon Burns has declined to assure the travel trade that he favours bringing airline sales of holidays into the Atol scheme.
In a first public statement on Atol reform since taking over as minister from Theresa Villiers, Burns hailed introduction of the Atol Certificate, due on Monday, and confirmed the Civil Aviation Bill should become law next year.
The Bill will give ministers the power to extend Atol protection to airline sales of holidays – a key demand of the trade. But Burns declined to go further and repeat previous assurances that the government is “minded” to extend the scheme.
Burns said: “We will have a consultation to see what happens after that.
“It would be irresponsible of me to prejudge [the outcome] when the mechanism for the consultation is not even finalised. I do not intend to prejudge and be accused that a potential consultation is a waste of time because the minister had already made up his mind.”
He added: “I am now the minister and am looking at all policy areas in my portfolio.
“I wish to ensure that consumers are protected where it is sensible to give protection. But at this stage it would be irresponsible to prejudge any consultation we may or may not have next year.”
Burns also dismissed a concern raised by Abta that some agents could mistakenly issue an Atol Certificate for an unprotected booking.
He said: “To issue a certificate when a booking is not protected would be illegal. It would be extraordinarily unwise to hoodwink a customer and I would think the vast majority [of companies] would not want to do anything contrary to the law and misleading to consumers.”
Atol Certificates will be legally required to explain the financial protection for package holidays, Flight-Plus sales and flight-only bookings through third parties.
Abta said this week it feared some customers would demand a certificate regardless of whether a holiday is protected.
However, Civil Aviation Authority chairman Dame Deidre Hutton said: “The more consumers stand their ground and say give me a certificate, the better.”
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