Online travel agents say they are having to adapt their product in the face of a significant short-term lack of air capacity and rising seat prices following Thomas Cook’s collapse.
It follows the recent warning by Sunvil chairman Noel Josephides about big hikes in the cost of flight seats in the current market. One operator said prices had risen by around £20 to £25 per seat for certain European resorts.
Travel Republic managing director Frank Rejwan said there was bound to be “price inflation” as a result of reduced air capacity, particularly to former Thomas Cook hotspots such as Turkey or Tunisia, in the short-term.
He said it was important for OTAs to adapt by focusing on other destination options as consumers sought out cheaper alternatives.
He said: “It will improve over time. People will change their [destination] options; the world is a big place. But if people want Turkey and a certain hotel, it will be tougher.
“We are naturally concerned in the short term like anyone but as a business you have alternative options; you have got to be adaptable.
“From an OTA perspective there will be other options as to where you can go. We are lucky because we have a large range of product; we have 300,000 hotels, and we have got purchasing power through [parent company] dnata which helps us.”
He admitted regional departures where Thomas Cook previously had routes were likely to be worst-hit while smaller, destination specialists which were not part of large groups could find it tough.
“Thomas Cook did so many routes and the regional airports will suffer; there will be some fall-out as there is no way every route will be replaced from the regional airports. For smaller players with no purchasing power it will definitely be harder,” he added.
In a trading statement, On The Beach chief executive Simon Cooper said that Thomas Cook’s failure had created a “significant short-term lack of seat capacity as well as an unprecedented opportunity in the medium term to gain share”.
He added that the seat capacity loss had led to an imbalance of supply and demand with a “significant increase in flight pricing” especially for this winter and for travel to the eastern Mediterranean. The company expects seat supply to “normalise” next year.
Other operators told Travel Weekly it was simple case of “less supply, more demand” but admitted they were having to negotiate carefully to find new airline seats for their business in the current market.
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