29 OCTOBER 2012

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Article from BTNews 29 OCTOBER 2012

COMMENT: Consumer protection

The Association of British Travel Agents, much better known as ABTA, has launched a consumers’ checklist on financial protection.  They are to be applauded.  It is intended to help consumers understand the impact of the changes brought in by the Government reforms to the established ATOL scheme, including the introduction of ATOL certificates.

The 'Your Protection Checklist' provides advice to consumers on the booking process and outlines what documentation you should receive when booking your travel arrangements.
 
There is still much confusion about what holiday arrangements are or are not protected by ATOL and therefore what paperwork consumers should expect to receive.  ATOL certificates are only evidence of ATOL protected holidays.  ABTA estimates that around 50% of holiday arrangements sit outside of the ATOL scheme.  Some of these will be ABTA protected, for example cruise and rail holidays, some may not be protected at all. 'Your Protection Checklist' will help holidaymakers to understand what to look for and what documentation they need.  The advice to consumers is to always check what is protected when making a booking.
 
Currently, the law requires package holidays and 'Flight-Plus' holidays (when a consumer buys separate flights, accommodation and/or car hire from a travel agent at the same time) to be financially protected.  This is done through the ATOL scheme of financial protection if the holiday involves a flight, or through a bond held with an association such as ABTA if it is a non-flight based package.  For example, ABTA protects approximately 3.7m holidaymakers each year for packages where transport is not flight based, such as domestic, train, coach or cruise holidays, as well as many single element bookings.
 
However, because airline holiday sales are currently exempt from the ATOL scheme there is no legal requirement for airlines to financially protect holidays in the same way, so a consumer may believe they are covered when they are not.  Due to exceptions such as this, ABTA estimates approximately 38% of the flight based holiday market is still unprotected.

In some ways nothing has changed.  If you are travelling independently make sure your various bookings are insured.  The airline sector can be covered for a very small amount if that gives you peace of mind.  If you are dealing with a tour operator/travel agent who is not a member of ABTA ask for the ATOL certificate.  It is illegal to trade as such without one.

'Your Protection Checklist' is a worthy document.  Keep up the good work ABTA.  Go to www.abta.com/consumer-services and scroll down to the end of the page.

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