Crucial exemption for agents included in Atol reform terms

It looks like there has been some good news for many online retailer selling no-frills flights via customer credit cards in the Atol reforms coming in this month.

Standards Terms released by the CAA on Thursday included an unexpected exemption without which seat-only sales would have required an Atol licence and incurred a £2.50 per person protection charge.

The Standard Terms were released following the new Flight-Plus regulations being laid before parliament on Wednesday where they will remain for 21 days before being enacted.

The exemption for seat-only sales comes after strong lobbying from the travel trade.

The key clause in the final version of the Standard Terms states the new rules “excludes a person from the need to hold an Atol if they purchase flight accommodation using the consumer’s credit or debit card and the operator immediately issues a confirmed ticket”.

Crucially the exemption will not apply when this is done as part of a holiday which then makes it a Flight-Plus package incurring the £2.50 Atol Protection Contribution.

Under the new rules any agent selling Atol protected packages must have an agency agreement in place with the supplier, something budget carrier Ryanair would not adhere to.

Some sources estimate around 60% of some of the larger online travel agents’ business involved a Ryanair flight.

The CAA confirmed the exemption for IATA agents from the need to hold an Atol. The Standard Terms also confirm the Atol exemption for sales of business travel, or “sales to a corporate body”, and extend this to “employees of charities, higher education institutions and schools”.

The Standard Terms can be found here.

A document summarising the changes is here.

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