This week’s sad collapse of Monarch Airlines impacted both those currently abroad with the airline, as well as those with future holidays already booked. We’ve been busy helping ensure clients get home with minimal disruption while also making alternative flight arrangements for upcoming holidays. All at no extra cost. Such is the benefit of booking an ATOL protected package with a tour operator you can rely on to look after you.
However, it may come as a surprise to learn that out of the 110,000 passengers abroad courtesy of Monarch at the time of the collapse, just 20,000 were covered by ATOL protection. This means that 90,000 travellers booked their flights without any financial protection - either by booking flight-only online or a package via an internet company not registered in the UK. This clearly shows current legislation to be out of touch with how the majority of people are making their travel bookings.
According to Advantage Travel Partnership managing director Julia Lo Bue-Said, “The ATOL scheme suggests those not covered should be stranded. Therefore, it appears the scheme is not fit for purpose.” The government’s decision to repatriate all 110,000 Monarch customers (regardless of whether they actually had ATOL protection entitling them to such) certainly seems to indicate that they agree.
So, is it time for the law to change?
Derek Moore, the chairman of AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators), certainly thinks so: “Airlines are much more likely to fail than tour operators. Yet Government has done nothing to protect passengers booking scheduled airline seats, as with Monarch, while tying tour operators up in unnecessary red tape (the ATOL system) that they have now apparently chosen to override and ignore.”
Back in 2005, the CAA did actually present a plan to the government that may have solved the problem of airline collapses for passengers not booked on a traditional ‘package holiday’.
Moore continues, “The CAA proposed a £1 levy - the price of a bag of crisps - on all passengers flying out of the UK. It was turned down – lost by just a couple of votes in the House of Lords. Had it been implemented, the £65M cost of repatriating Monarch passengers would have been covered easily, without any impact on the tax payer, travel industry or credit card companies. The government should immediately extend ATOL to cover scheduled seats following this debacle, because the ATOL system simply doesn’t now cover enough of the travelling public. All outbound flight sales should immediately include £1 per seat, whether scheduled or chartered, to deliver full financial protection and repatriation for all. It’s a common-sense measure; let’s hope common sense prevails.”
In the meantime, we at Real Holidays would continue to urge you to make your holiday arrangements through tour operators offering full financial protection. It’s peace of mind that you can’t really put a price on.