Shouldn’t we have true holiday and flight protection?

By | Category: Travel news, Travel rumblings

Last Monday the new regulations for bonding came into force. Now a report from MP’s on the Transport Select Committee welcomes what has been introduced but says it doesn’t go far enough. In fact, in some places, the report is very critical of the government.
To recap, the new rules mean that people who put together their own travel packages with travel agents or online are covered. However, the flight and accommodation parts must be put together within two days or each other or you will not be covered. But there is an exception and that is if your supplier agrees voluntarily to cover you even if the two day limit is exceeded. A new ATOL certificate must be issued with holiday bookings (from October 1st) so that a traveller will immediately know whether they are covered or not. Already covered are those who buy a package holiday from a tour operator who has an ATOL number.
The committee points out that those people not covered are those who just book flights or who buy from a travel agent who acts as an agent for the consumer. This last point is not easy to understand and one of the things the committee calls for is greater clarity so that it is clearer to the traveller as to what is covered and what is not. In addition they say that the £2.50 flat fee that we pay for this protection should be altered and that it should reflect the cost of the holiday or travel involved.
Some online travel agents and airlines objected saying that it would be costly to set-up new systems to monitor the new measures. Frankly, given the amount that is spent on systems by these companies – whose whole business is reliant on having good systems – I have no sympathy. Yes, there will be costs but I still maintain that we will end up paying with them so why not bite the bullet and agree? There are so many add-ons that the passenger faces, adding a further £2.50 – providing that all airlines do it – should quieten them immediately.
The government said that it cannot – under EU law – bring in rules for protection for flight only passengers. The committee says, “If EU legislation is a barrier, the Government should use its involvement in reform of the EU Package Travel Directive to press for necessary changes,” which suggests that they are not sure the government is necessarily right. But surely this is an area that does need attention. Should IATA –the body that airlines belong to – consider a world-wide system or do we have to rely on using credit cards and obtaining refunds from our supplier? Debit card payers have no protection. It highlights again the importance of travel insurance and that the policy has a clause covering the collapse of any type of airline.
It also says that whilst industry has been consulted, the views of the traveller have not and it urges the government to undertake some research into what travellers think. They also think that future reforms should be funded by the travel industry but, let’s face it, we are going to end up paying anyway so we might as well have our two pennyworth of thoughts considered as the committee says.
Where I disagree with the committee is where it says that consumer protection is essentially a private matter. We have protection for things we buy in shops through the Sale of Goods Act. We must have insurance for driving cars and so should we have them for holidays and flying. The ATOL scheme is essentially an insurance policy anyway.
Whether we are left to buy it ourselves or whether we have a government imposed scheme is a matter of politics. But some all-encompassing scheme needs to be introduced. And one that everyone understands.

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