The changes to the Regulations proposed by the Department for Transport (DfT) are primarily aimed at bringing the UK law into line with the EU Directive on Package Travel, which must be done by 1 July. The Directive will mean that many more holiday sales will be defined as packages, including many that are currently sold as Flight-Plus. This will involve increased liabilities for many Members and other travel companies.
There are also a number of proposals to change the way that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulates travel companies, including how holidays are advertised, reporting to the CAA, the issuing of ATOL Certificates, and sales across the EU.
While there are developments in the proposals that will benefit travel agents selling flight-only; level the playing field for tour operators; and facilitate sales across the EU there are also changes that could add to Members’ costs and liabilities. It is important that Members take the time to read both the Regulations, and the consultation on the standard terms, in order to gain an understanding of what they could each mean for their businesses.
Both the DfT and the CAA are running four-week consultations, to provide feedback on what the final regulations look like.
ABTA will be responding to the consultations on behalf of our Members and we’re keen to gather your views and feedback to inform our response. We will be emailing all Members next week asking for your feedback, so please look out for this. We will also host a conference call the following week, which will give you the opportunity to hear from ABTA’s experts on the Regulations and proposed standard terms, and raise any important questions.
As well as providing feedback to ABTA, Members should also respond directly to DfT and CAA on some of the specific issues that relate to the costs to your business of the proposed changes.
We will be working hard to make sure Members understand what the PTRs and ATOL regulations/standard terms mean for their businesses and the steps they need to take. The Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) and ATOL are items on the agenda for the regional business meetings – with first next week in Bristol – if you haven’t booked your place at a regional meeting, there is still time to do so. There will be updated guidance notes, webinars and an event specifically on what PTR means for travel agents on 1 May. Our PTR18 hub on abta.com is the place to find new information.
One of the issues we continue to raise with Government is the tight timescale Members have to implement these changes. We are seeking clarification from Government on when it plans to report back from the ATOL consultation, and are encouraging them to do so as quickly as possible so that businesses have time to prepare.
Not all of the changes to the ATOL scheme are directly driven by the need to comply with the 1 July deadline for the Package Travel Regulations. Where this is the case, for example with some of the proposals relating to advertising, we will be asking the CAA to defer implementation to a later date.