New Atol rules protect online holiday bookings
A scheme that protects holidaymakers if their tour operator collapses has now been extended to flight-plus holidays booked online.
The Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Atol) scheme will now protect an estimated six million holidaymakers.
The scheme is designed to ensure that holidaymakers who book their holiday with an ATOL holder do not lose their money if a tour operator fails, and also makes sure they are not stranded abroad.
Package holidays were already covered by the scheme but it has now been extended to include flight-plus holidays.
Although these look like normal package holidays, with holidaymakers booking all the elements of a holiday from the same provider as one package, they were not previously protected by the scheme.
For these flight-plus holidays to be covered all elements such as flight, accommodation, transfers and car hire, must be bought within a specified short time period.
From October, travel companies will be required to give consumers an Atol certificate when they buy a holiday, to show that the holiday is protected, as part of the reforms.
However airlines remain exempt from the scheme, so holidays will not be covered if a flight is booked from an airline and accommodation is booked directly with a hotel.
Consumer group Which? is calling for airlines to be included, to extend protect to all holidaymakers who have flown to a destination overseas.
People whose travel arranges are not covered by the Atol scheme can take out travel insurance to protect themselves against the failure of a tour operator.
While the extension of the scheme will offer greater protection for holidaymakers, there is also concern that it could reduce choice.
John Howell, the head of travel software firm Multicom, warned that the reforms will increase costs for smaller travel agents and could give airlines an unfair advantage in the travel market.
Mr Howell submitted his concerns with the Civil Aviation Authority prior to the extension of the scheme.