Mall of America Shot 2019-03-05 at 13_42_41.png

Published on Monday, March 4, 2019

ATOL scheme is 'ineffective bureaucratic feast'

With the imminent release of the Airline Insolvency Review report, Trailfinders chairman Mike Gooley CBE explains why he believes the ATOL scheme is 'ineffective and impotent' and why the only solution is to have trust accounts for clients. Trailfinders left ABTA to join the Travel Trust Association at the end of last year, becoming its largest member.

"The travel industry has been more fraught with constant financial failure than any other enterprise and by its nature this has resulted in not just loss of money, but untold misery, when innocent travellers have lost their precious holiday or been left stranded.

The root cause is that the industry is so unusually permitted to use pipeline monies as working capital. People hand over advance funds in the belief and trust that it is for their specific travel arrangements, never realising it may be spent to keep a cash-strapped operation afloat, so massively adding to the magnitude of their shortfall when they do collapse.

The solution is so blindingly simple: the mandatory operation of a Trust Fund to ring-fence pipeline funds and prevent their use for any other purpose than that intended, and supposed by the purchaser. Indeed, any other use is simply misappropriation.

The authority charged with regulating this commerce is the Civil Aviation Authority although the flight component is only the smaller fraction of holiday arrangements. They come under the Ministry of Transport, itself not famed for financial management. There are much more fitting Government agencies charged with the regulation of financial behaviour.

The rudimentary ATOL scheme was introduced in 1973 and has proved ineffective time and time again. Despite the current 152 pages, it is so impotent that only a minority of travellers is actually covered and even then the protection can be limited and certainly not understood by the public. It is nothing much more than a bureaucratic feast majoring in obfuscation. Very worryingly it is also very poorly policed and it seems that in the lead up to the Monarch collapse, the CAA even encouraged a reduction in First Aviation Ltd ATOL fees to safeguard their own ATOL Trust Fund, so contrary to the CAA's very purpose.

The scheme is so convoluted, because it was clumsy and poorly thought out from the outset, so has had to suffer sticking plaster corrections, and for a long time the plasters being applied over previous plasters."

Story Image

Your Comments

, be the first to post a comment.
Your email:

Email other comments made to this story

NOTE: Comments are subject to admin approval before being posted.
  • Old and Tired Atol System

    Most of us in the trade know that the burden of having Atol is high. We have been operating a trust account with the TTA for nearly 26years. So many times it has proved that when a supplier or operator goes bust the money is sitting in the trust account if not then also covered by its fidelity insurance, making it 100% secure for clients money. The Atol system cannot guarantee this, it is old and past its sell by date its time for a change and stop bureaucrats keep this defunct system alive.

    By Bhups Chauhan, Wednesday, March 13, 2019


    Mr Gooley is 100% correct. The system is neither transparent nor easy to negotiate as a smaller newer business. We are required to have onerous bonds when our exposure is minimal. Larger companies have no requirement to have a bond and so when they go bust HM Government (ie the British Taxpayer) has to bring the clients home. Our system is asine in every possible way. Germany at least allows a company to keep flying and wind its business down slowly while in administration. Britain on the other hand slams the door on airlines (such as monarch) and then the person who slammed the door suddenly has to pay to bring home the stranded passengers. Why do we need the government to operate the ATOL scheme? Surely standard 0bonding (such as IPP etc) should be enough.

    By Farhat Jah, Tuesday, March 5, 2019


    The ATOL scheme is well meant but is a nightmare for both operators and travel agents to manage and understand. Travel Counsellors have operated their own Financial Protection Trust fund for all clients monies in association with Barclays Bank for many years, which offers a no-fuss,no quibble , no questions protection on ALL aspects of their holiday . When required through third party supplier failure, it has paid out immediately and /or alternative arrangements made with the least possible fuss for the customer. Not once has the customer lost out and inconvenienced. It is simple and can be done. Travel Counsellors have proved it.

    By Michael Edwards, Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Mole Poll
Should the UK government have stepped in to save Thomas Cook ?
yes 40.08 %
no 59.92 %

Thank you for your vote


Are Coral Reefs that important ? Why? The Mole podcast talks to the Coral Restoration Foundation

The TravelMole Podcast talks to JNTO about all things Japan

Mayflower 400 ... the big event for the
UK 2019/20... experts talk about how to sell it

TravelMole talks to Missing People Charity

Move scroll bar (above) left to right for more videos!