Published on Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CAA unveils new ATOL certificates

The Civil Aviation Authority has unveiled plans to introduce a new certificate to be given to every customer who books an ATOL holiday in an attempt to end confusion about who will be looked after when a company goes bust.

The certificates will guarantee to the holder that if their tour operator ceases trading they will be brought home by the CAA or refunded if they haven't travelled.

The ATOL Certificate would be a simple document in a standard format across the ATOL licensed industry, clearly setting out what is protected by ATOL, and replacing the existing complex range of paperwork holidaymakers are currently given when they book, said the CAA.

The CAA will begin discussions with ATOL holders and consumer representatives about the certificate at The Travel Convention this week, with a view to setting up a working group to get industry and consumer expertise before consulting on the proposal.

The timing of the introduction of the certificate will be an important decision for the working group, but the CAA is starting work now to allow introduction as early as possible given the inevitable lead-in times to allow the industry to change their systems," the CAA said in a statement.

Deputy director of the CAA Consumer Protection Group David Moesli said: “The holiday failures this summer showed that a lot of consumers are left confused and frustrated when tour operators cease trading, thanks in no small part to the poor standard of documentation in the travel industry, particularly amongst travel agents.

"Introducing the ATOL Certificate would mean that the second someone books a holiday they receive a single document that sets out what is protected by ATOL and guarantees they can finish their holiday or get their money back if their operator fails.

“A standardised certificate which is received by everyone who books an ATOL-protected holiday telling them exactly what is and is not covered will go a long way towards helping people understand their protection arrangements.

"In the future, people will come to expect to receive a Certificate in the same way you expect to receive a ticket, and they will take it overseas with them like a passport or medical card, to make sure they receive protection under ATOL.”

Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers said:  "Today's holiday market looks very different to how it did when the ATOL scheme was originally introduced.  As a result, it can be difficult for holiday-makers to know whether their trip is protected by the ATOL scheme.

"This excellent initiative is an important milestone in our journey to providing a scheme fit for the future.  Alongside this new certificate, we are actively working on wider reforms to ATOL to make it more suitable for the diverse 21st century holiday market."

By Linsey McNeill

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