April 2019 Update—ATOL Renewal Data Suggests that Brexit Doesn’t Seem to Matter: There was very little change this month when the UK’s Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA) released its biennial list of the top holders of an Airline Travel Organizer License (Atol), which is also a measure of the top operators in the UK. However, judging by the sales activity anticipated on the part of the Top 10 Atol-holders, the UK tourism industry is looking forward to a healthy summer and peak travel season this year, as these 10 have increased their authorized capacity for the by almost 15 percent. (Air Travel Organizers Licensing is a CAA program designed to give financial protection to people who have purchased package holidays and flights from a member tour operator.)
CAA figures show that, despite uncertainty about Brexit putting affecting sales, the 10 largest license holders are authorized to carry almost 18.8 million passengers through the coming year (March 31, 2020), up from 16.4 million a year ago. By contrast, the 10 largest Atol‑holders sought authorization for 325,000 holidays a year ago, a rise of 2 two percent vs. April 2017.
According to those who follow the matter, the sharp increase is due to a combination of added capacity and to previously unprotected sales being brought into Atol in line with the new Package Travel Regulations, which came into effect last July. (More holiday travel arrangements will be classified as packages. A “ready-made” holiday—this is usually where you book through one company and pay one price—is still classified as a package holiday. But so, too, are holidays sold in other ways; these include, for example, many tailor-made trips and “shopping cart” type sales on websites, where the consumer selects the different elements such as flight and hotel.)
Alan Bowen, an attorney who advises the UK travel industry, told Travel Weekly UK: “A lot of people in the past were getting away with selling flights as agent to the consumer [and] if you were just selling seat-only you didn’t need to protect those. Some have thought ‘better bring those back into Atol’ so they can tell people they are protected.” He expressed surprise at the increase in capacity by tour operators, adding, “The short-haul market is enormously difficult and there is huge competition.”