The head of The Travel Network Group said direct customers who booked with Monarch should be the ones to “suffer”, not the travel industry.

Chief executive Gary Lewis said it was “inherently unfair” for the government to try to recover repatriation costs from tour operators for non-Atol protected customers following Monarch’s collapse.

The government stepped in and picked up the cost of repatriating the majority of Monarch Airlines’ 110,000 passengers.

Industry anger over clients with no Atol protection being flown home for free has been compounded by the prospect of firms facing a £250 bill per person.

“I understand why the government had to repatriate everyone, but for the government to look to recover costs from Atol holders is inherently unfair,” Lewis said.

“Consumers who booked direct should suffer.”

But Lewis said he did not think the Atol scheme needed to be reformed: “The system doesn’t need changing, but everyone needs to abide by the rules for it to work,” he said.

TTNG, the Worldchoice and Travel Trust Association parent, had 380 members which were affected by the Monarch collapse, with around 60% who had flight-plus and approximately 40% with package holidays.

A dedicated team from the consortium was set-up to handle members’ Monarch bookings following the collapse last Monday.

The majority affected forward bookings. One of the biggest challenges has been to find suitable product and capacity for Lapland holidays this winter, according to the Group.

Lewis said: “When an industry puts so much into financial protection, experience, paperwork, all the support, advice and care…We have seen the success of that because customers are coming back to agents instead of booking directly.

“Events like this demonstrate the massive added value in travel agents.”
But he warned supplier failure insurance premiums would undoubtedly rise as a result of Monarch’s failure and could lead to the folding of some businesses.

“It is a limited market and very unique,” Lewis said. “There are very few players and we’ve had had two huge losses (Monarch and Lowcost) in the last two years so the costs of being a travel business are going to go up. Some people will be able to stay in the market and some won’t.”