ATOL overhaul ‘not far enough’
December 14th, 2009 by elisa

An overhaul of the ATOL passenger protection scheme does not go far enough, according to consumer watchdog Which? Holiday. A ‘flight plus’ element is to be suggested in an effort to close the passenger protection loophole when different travel components are booked together with a flight. This leads on from my blog earlier in the week on the Parliamentary Transport Committee suggesting that ATOL protection should cover all flights and not just package holidays, see the full blog here.

Responding to the revamp of the system announced by transport secretary Lord Adonis, the body’s head of research Rochelle Turner said: “The ATOL scheme in its current form provides great protection for anyone taking a package holiday or booking through an ATOL bonded agent.

“But a significant number of people book hotels from direct links on airline websites, or use online travel agents to book their own package, and could be left without the peace of mind that they are protected should something go wrong.

“While it’s great that the Government is taking steps to make the scheme relevant to today’s holidaymaker, we are concerned it doesn’t go far enough to ensure that all travellers are equally protected.

“The proposed ‘flight plus’ category needs clarification to prevent consumers being left open to loopholes which may leave them stranded should something go wrong.”

Flight plus’ measures have been proposed whereby ATOL protection would include all sales of a flight together with another significant element, such as hotel accommodation or car hire.

Which? Holiday said it is aware of a growing trend towards “reverse packaging”, where people are booking hotel accommodation and then booking their flights through a link on the hotel website.

This would not be covered under the proposed changes to the ATOL scheme, the body claims.

The proposals to reform the ATOL scheme are designed to reflect changes in the holiday market and make it easier for those booking holidays to understand whether their trip is covered or not, the Department for Transport said.

The changes could see the new wider ‘flight-plus’ category introduced, to make clear that anyone booking a flight and another holiday component such as car hire or hotel will be protected by the scheme.

The ATOL scheme reform plans are subject to a 12-week public consultation.

Detailing the ATOL review, the DfT said: “The objective of the reforms in the consultation is to provide greater clarity for consumers and the travel trade about the scope of ATOL protection for holidays and flights.

“‘Flight plus’ measures are proposed whereby ATOL protection would include all sales of a flight together with another significant holiday element.

“In addition, the consultation provides options to clarify the financial protection of flight-only sales, by parties other than an airline, so as either to include or exclude them from the ATOL scheme.”

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