of the week

Sailing away Princess Cruises

displayed a defiant message to

the world last week from its flagship Sky Princess, promising to return to the seas after suspending its

operations. Princess was among the

first in a swathe of lines to halt sailings as the cruise sector reacted to the coronavirus pandemic. It says it will begin cruising again on 11 May.



The CAA has pushed back the spring Atol renewal deadline from the end of March to 28 April, citing the “exceptional and unprecedented” circumstances arising from the coronavirus crisis. March-renewing Atol holders now

have until 31 March to submit their renewal applications to qualify for the 28-day licence extension, otherwise their Atols will lapse. The decision will come into effect on 31 March. All applicable Atol holders will be notified by email. It is only the second time the renewal


James Chapple

The collapse of Thomas Cook cost the taxpayer more than £150 million – and drained the Atol fund to such an extent it may not be able to fully fulfil its function should the sector see another major failure in the coming months as the coronavirus crisis bites. The National Audit Office (NAO) on Thursday (19 March) detailed the full cost of Cook’s demise, and warned resources to deal with any further airline or Atol-holder failures were limited. The total cost to the Air

Travel Trust Fund (ATTF) is estimated at £481 million. However, while the CAA expects the ATTF to remain in surplus, the NAO report warns: “There will be relatively little resources left in the ATTF.” The average call on the ATTF’s

resources over the five years from 2013/14 to 2017/18 was £10 million, and ran to £16 million when Monarch collapsed. It is yet to publish its accounts for

2018/19. At the end of its 2017/18 financial 6 TRAVEL TRADE GAZETTE 23.03.2020

year, it had £642 million to call on – £167 million cash and liquid resources; a £400 million insurance facility; and £75 million borrowing facilities. The Department for Transport (DfT) paid £83 million towards the Cook repatriation – £22 million more than expected. Initial estimates suggested 60% of Cook passengers had Atol protection; full booking data later showed it to be about 45%. The government, meanwhile, will pick up £73 million worth of costs arising from Cook’s liquidation. These include “at least” £58 million

redundancy payments, and up to £23 million costs to the official receiver.

According to the report, the

ATTF’s trustees have sought assurances from the DfT that should its resources become insufficient, the government would cover any shortfall. Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, said new regulations were “urgently required”. “The resources to cover other airlines going bust is now very limited.”

process has been pushed back after the autumn 2019 window was extended following the collapse of Thomas Cook. “In light of the exceptional and

unprecedented events due to Covid-19, this decision has been made to allow industry and the CAA to use this time to focus on overcoming unprecedented challenges and commit the resources necessary to provide support to consumers,” said the CAA. Michael Budge, head of licensing operations for Atol, said delaying the process was “the right course of action”, adding the extension would further allow Atol holders to focus on their customers and manage their finances. “Extra time will enable industry

to support customers in a highly challenging period of uncertainty and provide time to assess matters in order to meet the terms of their renewals,” added Budge. “It will also give the CAA time to appropriately assess applications where we need to complete assessments.”

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