Senior industry figures welcome confirmation of Atol reform delay

Senior industry figures have welcomed confirmation of the delay to Atol reform.

A joint CAA and Department for Transport (DfT) statement formally confirmed the delay last week (Travel Weekly, January 18).

Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, said: “People are pleased to be left to get on with running their business. Clearly, at some point Atol reform will be an issue, but it’s positive until we see the outcome.”

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Chris Photi, head of travel and leisure at White Hart Associates, agreed, saying: “The can has been kicked down the road. It’s good news for 95% of the industry. But there is nervousness among private equity investors about what is going to happen on Atol. Investors want to factor it in and there is no clarity.”

The CAA has given no indication of when the process might move forward, however, aviation minister Anthony Browne revealed earlier this week an update will be given later this year.

Bowen fears the failure of luxury online tour operator Luxtripper in October has stiffened the CAA’s resolve to insist on the segregation of customer money after last week’s statement asserted that a “considerable number” of businesses are still “using customer money”.

Luxtripper went into administration in October owing £11.9 million including more than £9.1 million to customers (Travel Weekly, January 11).

Bowen said: “The Luxtripper failure doesn’t help at all. It shows some companies are still using customer money to run their business. The CAA will be facing £4 million to £5 million in claims. It’s an embarrassment.”

He suggested: “I felt we had persuaded the CAA that most businesses were not using customer money to operate their business. [But] the CAA has not given up on the idea that there have to be controls on the use of customer money.”

Bowen added: “Luxtripper claimed one of its difficulties in raising funds was that no one knew the outcome of Atol reform. That is an excuse.”

The delay in the reform appears chiefly due to distraction within the government. A senior industry source suggested: “It takes three months now for a minister’s office to respond to anything. Everything is slow.”

The CAA celebrate 50 years of the scheme at a Parliamentary reception on Tuesday.

The celebration was attended by speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, aviation minister Anthony Browne and CAA chair Sir Stephen Hillier.

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