Atol reform expected to be delayed

The government’s planned Atol reform will not be in place from the Civil Aviation Authority’s target start date of April 2024, with a long-anticipated consultation on detailed proposals unlikely to appear before next year.

Industry representatives met Department for Transport and CAA officials on Tuesday and heard work continues on the proposals following a CAA Call for Further Evidence issued in January.

A statement is expected to confirm the delay to the consultation, which had been expected this autumn. The CAA first proposed changes to the Atol scheme in a consultation published in April 2021.

Travel Weekly understands the CAA remains keen to proceed with reforms which are likely to include a requirement to segregate customer money and move to a variable rate of Atol Protection Contribution (APC).

The CAA declined to comment on when the consultation might now appear. CAA head of Atol Michael Budge was due to speak at an Abta Travel Regulations Conference in London today (Wednesday, November 15).

Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, said: “We won’t see the Atol consultation this year.” He forecast a consultation would appear next year but suggested: “Whether it comes into effect is another matter.”

Bowen believes the CAA has moved away from imposing trust arrangements on Atol holders but remains likely to require holders to segregate customer money in client accounts.

A senior industry source blamed the Department for Transport for the delay, with ministers preoccupied with political manoeuvring ahead of a general election expected late next year.

A Cabinet reshuffle, which started on Monday, saw key changes at the head of the Home Office and Foreign Office plus aviation and maritime minister Baroness Vere moving from the Department for Transport to the Treasury after more than four years in the role.

Acting tourism minister John Whittingdale suggested last week that industry lobbying of government had become “better coordinated”, noting: “It’s something the industry sought to address [and] we’ve definitely made progress.” But he told Travel Weekly the sector remains “fragmented”, with “different views expressed by different bodies”.

Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo-Bue Said hailed Whittingdale’s remarks as “encouraging” but said: “With an election looming, we need to increase our momentum.”

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