Travel Republic’s decision to apply for an Atol licence this week will prove decisive in ensuring industry-wide compliance with the new Flight-Plus reform, according to an industry expert.
Chris Photi, senior partner at leading travel industry accountancy firm White Hart Associates, said if one of the leading online travel agents had broken ranks then all the others would have too.
Kane Pirie, managing director of Travel Republic, confirmed on Monday the agency had applied for a licence to ensure it was “fully compliant with the new regulations”. The decision means Travel Republic, having fought and won a long legal battle against the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), will start paying £2.50 per passenger for Flight-Plus sales.
Speaking this week at the first Travel Weekly Business Breakfast event, Iain Andrew, senior vice-president of Dnata Travel, which bought the online agency in December, said Travel Republic made its own decision to apply for an Atol without
any pressure from its new owner.
Photi said: “The bottom line is none of the large online travel agencies (OTAs) have opted to take the CAA on by going down the agent-for-the-consumer route.
“If that had happened, Flight-Plus would have collapsed because if one OTA had broken ranks the CAA would have had a hell of a problem on its hands. It would have precipitated the others to do the same because [not having to pay] £2.50 on a £300 short-haul holiday is a significant commercial advantage.”
Abta chairman John McEwan described Travel Republic’s decision as “really positive news” that would strengthen the industry’s hand in lobbying to bring airline holiday sales into Atol.
“It would have made things very awkward and left a big gap in the regulation if a major retailer had gone down the agent-for-the-consumer route. From an industry point of view Travel Republic has made the right decision.”
Despite Travel Republic opting to join Atol, Photi said a significant problem for online travel agents selling some budget airlines remains. “When the only way to source that flight is as agent for the consumer, clearly such arrangements do not fall under Atol.”
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