News item

TSI calls for more protection for airline passengers

The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) has called for an urgent change in the law following the collapse of travel operator XL Leisure Group.

TSI has campaigned for a number of years to get the government to offer the same level of protection for consumers who book flights independently as those who book a package holiday.

At the moment, only consumers who have booked a package holiday have protection if a tour operator collapses.

There is currently no protection for those who buy scheduled or budget airline flights separately, meaning many consumers who have bought a flight independently will find themselves losing their money or paying extra to get home.

TSI has today renewed calls for a change in the law after thousands of holidaymakers around the globe were left stranded when XL Leisure Group went into administration last week.

Ron Gainsford, chief executive of TSI, said: 'The government has to see the folly of the current unsatisfactory consumer protection and repatriation scheme and act quickly to plug this loophole in the law in order to protect all consumers who travel by air.

'The current economic climate has placed pressure on the travel industry and it is quite possible more airlines will go bust in the future. With more and more people choosing to book flights independently, it is vital these consumers are afforded the same level of protection as those who have chosen to buy a package deal.

'Flight-inclusive packages are subject to a £1 levy which holiday companies pay per person to cover the cost of getting people home if an airline collapses. This means consumers on a package holiday will be brought home at no extra cost to themselves.

'Holidaymakers who have booked flights independently have no statutory protection. We at TSI think the government should address this situation as a matter of urgency.'

Bruce Treloar, TSI lead officer for travel and the holiday industry, added: 'As long ago as 2005, after the collapse of a scheduled airline, TSI highlighted the loophole in the law at a meeting at of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards at the House of Commons.

'The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), under the CAA ATOL scheme, or the Association of British Travel Agents arranges repatriation for package holidaymakers stranded abroad.

'But passengers who have booked independently have to make their own arrangements to get back to the UK if an airline collapses, resulting in extra expense, hassle and worry for the consumer.

'Under consumer credit regulations, consumers will get their money back if the holiday costs more than £100 and any part of the cost is paid for by credit card. This is helpful for travellers who have purchased the separate components of their holiday independently. However, these consumers are still left with the burden of making alternative travel arrangements to get home in the event of their chosen airline going bust.'

Bruce advised anyone planning a holiday in the future to consider paying by credit card.

'As the law stands, credit card companies are jointly liable for debts of more than £100. We do not always advise people to pay by credit card, but credit card companies will have to help you where goods and services cost more than £100. This applies to all purchases not just holidays,' he said.

'If consumers have paid by debit card, there is no statutory protection. However, some debit cards do sign up to a charge back arrangement whereby refunds might be given by the card issuer, so it is worth consumers checking with their bank if they have paid by debit card.'

Notes to Editors

TSI raised the loophole in the law at the twenty-fifth meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards on 08 November, 2005.

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.