Abta legal chief urges PTRs to be rewritten

Abta director of legal affairs Simon Bunce has urged the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) to “rewrite the whole lot” in its review of the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs).

Bunce called for a rewrite of the regulations at a Travlaw event in London last week, suggesting the department “starts with a blank sheet of paper”.

He was speaking a day after aviation minister Anthony Browne promised an update on Atol reform “this year” following confirmation of a delay to the reform in mid-January.

MoreAnalysis: Delay to Atol reform was not a surprise

Bunce said: “We’ve left the EU. We should rewrite the whole lot in a way that works for the UK industry. It would be a missed opportunity if we don’t.”

He suggested the Package Travel Directive, on which the PTRs are based, was “a compromise” and argued: “We don’t need to make these compromises. Let’s start with a blank sheet of paper and write a set of regulations that work for the UK.”

Not everyone agreed. Krystene Bousfield, partner at Travlaw, argued the regulations “need to be simplified”. She said: “We don’t need to rewrite the regulations. They need to be tweaked.”

Alistair Rowland, chief executive of Blue Bay Travel and chair of Abta, acknowledged: “There are some issues of concern with the PTRs.”

But Bunce argued the “balance of risk has shifted too far” against travel organisers and Rowland agreed: “An organiser is on the hook for anything that can happen on a holiday.”

The DBT issued a Call for Evidence on reform of the PTRs in September 2023 and is reviewing the submissions ahead of a follow-up consultation.

Craig Belshaw, assistant director for partnerships and consumer policy at the department, told an Abta travel regulations conference in November: “We have the power to write entirely new legislation.”

Asked about the delay to Atol reform, Rowland noted: “Everyone wants to get to the finish line on reform, but we want the right outcome.”

Bunce argued: “We have to use the opportunity of the delay on Atol.” He added: “I’m sure the CAA wishes it hadn’t started [Atol reform].”

Browne revealed there will be an update later this year when he spoke at a joint CAA-Travel Weekly Parliamentary reception to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Atol last week.

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