Holiday protection for millions more travellersATOL reform welcome but not enough says Which?

03 February 2011


British travellers are set to have greater financial protection when booking holidays, thanks to new plans announced today by the Department of Transport. 

The government has said it will press ahead with reforms to the ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licence) scheme, which currently protects package holidays if a company goes bust.

But the new scheme will still leave around 14 million holidays unprotected.

'Flight Plus'

The new ‘flight-plus’ scheme will mean that separate holiday components – such as flights and car hire – purchased from the same operator and bought together within a short period will be protected.

In addition, operators will be required to provide detailed information to customers making it clear when a trip is ATOL protected. 

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is already working with the travel industry to develop an easily recognisable ATOL certificate to be issued to customers when they buy a protected holiday.

Millions still unprotected

Although the new scheme’s aim is for six million more holidays to be financially protected, millions will still fall outside the ATOL remit.

‘Click-through sales’ where a customer buys a flight from a website and clicks a link to another site for accommodation or car hire, will not be covered by the proposed changes.

Almost 60 million Britons book holidays every year. 

According to research carried out by Which? in May 2010, more than 30% of holidaymakers book individual components such as flights and accommodation either with different companies or by clicking through from one website to another. Under the new scheme, none of these will be protected.

Wider reform needed

Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers said that the government will, however, consider wider reforms to the scheme.

She said: ‘I also believe there may be a case for new primary legislation to address other issues in the ATOL scheme and I will be considering this further in the course of the year.’

This is the biggest overhaul of the ATOL scheme for more than a decade and is expected to come into force from January 2012.

Which? Travel head of research Rochelle Turner said: ‘These reforms go some way towards offering UK holidaymakers much greater financial protection. However, Which? research has found that around 14 million holidays still won’t be protected under these reforms.’

She added: ‘We urge the government to further reform the scheme to include ‘click throughs’ and end consumer confusion once and for all.’

Which? Conversation

What do you think about the planned changes? Will this make your holiday booking safer? Are you thoroughly confused? Join the debate on Which? Conversation.

Which? Travel information

For information on financial protection on package holidays see our holiday rights pages.

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