ETOA has identified the major financial difficulties travel agents and operators are facing after the closure of European airspace. It said tour operators and wholesalers had helped stranded passengers wherever possible, including negotiating with contractors to secure good rates. Coaches have been deployed and the rail network has been used to get people home too. “The situation is one which no-one predicted and so no-one planned. But any decision to close airspace is a decision to stop a wide range of economic activity. As safety cannot be compromised, we now have a real problem. When such a pronouncement causes so much damage, there should be reciprocal relief,” ETOA Executive Director Tom Jenkins told Travel Daily. EOTA outlined three financial difficulties that the disruption has caused.
1. Airlines have to pay clients and tour operators expenses for getting stranded passengers home. Airlines not only lose revenue from cancellations, they have to sustain its clients, often at a level disproportionate to the cost of the ticket.
2. Flights are cancelled on a 12-hour cycle so hotels cannot anticipate whether a guest will turn up until the last minute. Cancelling at short notice means that charges apply and these are incurred to tour operators, who cannot recover them.
3. The closure of airports caused immediate temporary lay-offs but it also affects a holidaymaker’s pre-made plans including taxis, ticket agencies, attractions, hotels, restaurants and shops. All have experienced damaging downturns.
“Given the unprecedented nature of these flying bans, the travel industry must pull together. We must not forget that consumers have been hit hard. We must not argue amongst ourselves whether this is “force majeure” or not. Passengers who could not travel do not expect or intend to pay; they need to be encouraged to return quickly,” said JAC Travel Group CEO Mario Bodini.