‘Renewed momentum’ to Atol Reform but no news on ‘when’

There is “renewed momentum” to Atol reform and the CAA remains committed to addressing how “some businesses fund their operations” although the upcoming general election “may affect when this happens”.

CAA head of Atol Michael Budge emphasised the Department for Transport’s (DfT) commitment to reform when he spoke at the Abta Travel Finance Conference in London last week, saying: “We’re working hard with DfT colleagues.

“There is renewed energy at the DfT, renewed momentum. They want to get this done.”


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He acknowledged “any change has to be approved by the secretary of state” and noted: “There could be a change in the government and in the secretary of state. But it doesn’t mean a new government will come in and put this in a black box. The department officials are highly engaged.

“A general election may affect when this happens, but it won’t mean a change of direction.”

Budge explained the delay in announcing detailed reforms, with proposals first published in April 2021, saying: “It’s important we get this right. Our role is to ensure the scheme protects people and enables business.”

He added: “We’re not looking to change what the consumer gets. This is about ensuring sustainability for the industry and consumer. We’ve seen the way some businesses fund their operations.”

Budge told the conference: “I’m not going to be drawn on when we’ll issue something, but we’re committed to doing something. We understand the need for clarity for businesses.”

He told Travel Weekly: “We’ve seen a reduction in the use of customer money over the last couple of years. But we see enough businesses still doing this [using customer money] – enough that it remains a reason for us to do something.”

Budge noted the strong recovery of the sector last year but added: “It doesn’t mean all businesses are increasing their financial sustainability.

“We see companies using consumer money to fund growth, to invest in marketing and to invest in people. It’s right to invest, but funding has to come before you take bookings.”

Abta director of legal affairs Simon Bunce told the conference: “We’re not going to see anything [on Atol reform] any time soon, but it’s significant the CAA and DfT are still concerned about advance customer payments being used for operational expenditure. That is still going to be the battleground.”

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