P&O Cruises has defended its decision not to pay commission on cancelled Dubai and Arabian Gulf sailings after agents expressed their frustration.

Agents who had passengers on the 49 departures on Oceana from October to March have begun the rebooking process after the programme was pulled.

P&O said the decision was based on external advice amid rising tensions in the region following the capture of a British-flagged oil tanker last month.

Miles Morgan, owner of Miles Morgan Travel, said P&O’s failure to protect agent commission was “disappointing”.

More: P&O Cruises pulls Dubai and Arabian Gulf programme

“It is disappointing that the rewards are not there for the work that people are prepared to put in,” he said. “A more positive approach would have meant that more agents would have rebooked their clients back on P&O Cruises.”

Richard Slater, owner of Macclesfield-agency Henbury Travel, said: “It would be nice to receive some of the commission to cover our expenses such as merchant fees and call costs to their premium rate number.”

Asked why agent commission had not been protected, a P&O Cruises spokesperson said: “This was a case of ‘force majeure’, an extraordinary event which unfortunately is out of our control.”

Affected passengers have been given an exclusive offer on 2020-21 Dubai and Arabian Gulf cruises and well as this season’s Caribbean fly-cruises.

New itineraries for Oceana will be put on sale on August 20 and include ex-Southampton departures to Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands, plus a 35-night pre-Christmas sailing to the Caribbean.

P&O Cruises has confirmed that its 99-night world cruise on Arcadia will still call at Dubai on March 24, 2020.

“That stays as scheduled,” the spokesperson added. “If we get advice to the contrary we will let passengers know.”

Some agents said they learnt of the decision to scrap the Dubai and Arabian Gulf programme at the same time as customers.

Carol Kirkham, of Preston-based Kirkham Travel, said she found out by reading another cruise line’s Facebook page.

“It would have been nice if we had found out direct from suppliers rather than through Facebook,” she said.

Another, who posted on Travel Weekly’s Facebook page, said: “We [are] not happy. Clients getting emails direct before we’re even advised.”

P&O Cruises said “key agents” with a large number of Dubai and Arabian Gulf bookings were told first so they could “prepare business for the larger announcement” on Wednesday (August 7).

“It is imperative that guests are communicated to in the right way at the right time,” the spokesperson added.

The wider agent community were notified of P&O Cruises decision via the line’s loyalty scheme, Shine Rewards Club.

“Agents have always been and remain our vital business partners. We have ensured that all affected agents have all the communication and detail that they need so that they are ready to deal with their customers,” the line added.