Only bad breaks expected from Europe on package reform

Only bad breaks expected from Europe on package reform

The UK’s Flight-Plus Atol scheme is unlikely to be endorsed by Europe in its revamped Package Travel Directive, the managing director of the Travel Network Group consortium fears.

Gary Lewis, speaking at the travel agency group's overseas conference in Slovenia at the weekend, said he was a keen supporter of Flight-Plus, something that was “right for retail agents”.

But, having had a meeting in Brussels a week ago with the European Commission which is drafting new proposals, he was not optimistic Europe would see it that way.

“Where I think Europe is doing is what it always tends to do. It looks across member states, works out which has got a broken leg and instead of trying to fix that broken leg it breaks all the other members’ legs so they can all hop at the same speed.

“How this relates to our business is that the CAA with Flight-Plus has come up with an entrepreneurial model to fit with where the customers are trading.

“They are going to go back to package and agents and that is going to drive more and more customers online to single element providers which will own a bigger slice of the market and put high street travel firms’ costs up.”

The expected publishing of the draft PTD in July is eagerly anticipated as this will start the firing gun on a UK government consultation that could see airline holidays brought into Atol regulation.

A proposal to do so was included in the new Civil Aviation Act but the government is awaiting to see what’s Brussel’s view on this is before consulting with the travel industry.

Andy Cohen, the CAA’s head of Atol, said the UK travel industry should not expect any rowing back of regulation from Brussels when the PTD draft comes out.

“The interesting thing is what are they going to do about Flight-Plus – are they going to call these packages,” he said.

Cohen urged the trade to get involved in the consultation on the Civil Aviation Act to drive the agenda.

“The minister has publically stated he will consult and bring airline holidays in. That’s an important step for Atol,” said Cohen.

Although it is thought Brussels is keen to get a new PTD enacted before the next European Parliament elections, it is feared it could fail to adding another three years.

Even if it does it won’t be until 2016 that the new law will be enacted in member states.

The UK government is expected to press ahead with getting its Civil Aviation Act on the statute books regardless but did not want to consult before Europe had made its position known.


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