Travel Counsellors chairman David Speakman has accused ABTA ofmisleading customers about their financial protection following the results ofthe Which? survey earlier this week.
ABTA removed its financial protection in2006 and now asks consumers to check with the travel companies, but Which?’stest showed that many travel agents do not know which clients are protected andthose that aren’t.
Now Speakman has called on ABTA to clarify what protectionit offers to its members on top of lobbying and ‘relying’ on the ATOL reformand its offering. “I find it ironic that on ABTA’s website it advises customersto ask their travel company if they are protected at the time of booking, whenin fact the agents are so confused they don’t actually know themselves. Thisissue is even more important because flight plus could bankrupt agents andleave customers with bookings outside the flight plus scheme unprotected,” saidSpeakman. “It is not actually the agents fault as it is ABTA who will not admitto the public they no longer protect so the consequence is that this is notclarified for the agent. Hence the whole industry is tarred, as reports such asWhich? put all agents in a bad light”.
Travel Counsellors undertook researchand found that 50 agent websites stated that ABTA offered protection. It contactedABTA, who said they would contact the agencies directly to clarify that it doesnot.
However, Speakman said the association should do more and called for itscode of conduct to change. “We have even asked ABTA to update its code ofconduct so agents do not mislead their customers but the association does notappear to want to clear up this confusion,” added Speakman.
Earlier this week,ABTA told Travel Daily the Which? survey had confirmed the confusion aroundprotection. “This Holiday Which? report simply confirms something ABTA has beensaying for years, that the current systems of financial protection are confusedand confusing for both the travelling public and the travel industry itself,” sapoksperson said. “This is why it is so important that the Government get ATOLreform right and in particular they must include airlines within the frameworkof the scheme which will both extend protection and remove much of theconfusion at source”.