New flight compensation reforms leave millions unprotected

Millions of holidaymakers flying off to the sun who think their breaks are covered by an airline compensation scheme if something goes wrong are really unprotected, according to a travel insurance firm.

And new reforms designed to extend consumer protection will still leave at least 50% of the 56 million flights out of the UK every year outside the compensation rules, warns International Passenger Protection (IPP).

The Civil Aviation Authority is reforming ATOL, the bonding scheme set up by travel agents and airlines, after a succession of failed firms.

The latest involved Comtel, who demanded £20,000 from passengers in Austria to complete a refuelling stop.

The reform is proposes that anyone booking a flight which is sold with accommodation and/or car hire at the same time, or within a day of each other, will be covered by ATOL.

IPP claims the reforms would increase consumer awareness of protected trips, but more still needs to be done to help the “millions of passengers whose bookings will fall outside the legislation.”

Paul McLean, director at IPP said: “The last ATOL annual report in March this year stated that 18.5 million people were protected for the preceding 12 months. The reforms are expected to add around six million travellers, equating to 24.5 million protected travellers. There are around 56 million trips from the UK each year – even after the reforms most travel plans will remain unprotected unless there is a massive shift in booking habits.

“The reforms have no requirement for non-ATOL protected sales to explain that the state protection is not in place.”

ATOL (Air Travel Organiser Licences) are issued by the Civil Aviation Authority to travel organisers and tour operators who sell air travel packages in the UK.  It is the only licensing scheme for tour operators that sell air holidays and flights and in holding a licence, operators also meet European Package Travel Directive insolvency protection requirements.

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