CAA moves to extend consumer protection to airline passengers

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The Independent Online

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will gather the great and good of the travel world for a meeting in London this week to thrash out an industry stance on the extension of consumer protection to the airline industry.

Months after the collapse of travel firm XL and the airline Zoom, a summit will be held at the UK headquarters of accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers ahead of meetings with Geoff Hoon, Secretary of State for Transport, before the end of the year.

Richard Jackson, consumer protection group director at the CAA, is thought to be leading the charge to bring airlines into the travel industry's Atol consumer-protection scheme, which costs £1 per customer. Airlines are currently exempt from the scheme.

"Everyone knows that the likes of British Airways and the other big boys are implacably against this," said one expert attending the talks. "But it's important that something is agreed."

Last month Thomas Cook's group chief executive, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, and Peter Long, his counterpart at the Tui group, lobbied MPs to widen customer protection to airline customers. The pair sent a letter to Ruth Kelly, then Transport secretary, to demand that the Government "undertakes an immediate review of consumer travel protection".

In 2005, CAA calls to force airlines into the Atol protection scheme when selling seats on planes directly, rather than via agents, was rebuffed by the Government, despite the support of the Transport Select Committee.

Meanwhile, there is thought to be growing unease at the handling of the XL administration by the Kroll Group. Kroll, which is better known for corporate investigations, recently asked for a further month to publish its report into XL's demise. Creditors will now have to wait until 4 December.

A source said: "The handling of XL by Kroll has been shabby ... There are a lot of unhappy creditors out there. They should have brought someone in who understands this business."

It is thought that other administrators have been sounded out in the event that Kroll is unable to resolve the XL administration satisfactorily.

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