Catch 22 plight leaves Thomson flying empty

Catch 22 plight leaves Thomson flying empty

The analyst (TravelWeekly August 2) advises Roger Burnell at Thomson to adopt the “if we have to fly with empty seats, then that is better in the long run,”attitude.

Thomson seems good at flying with empty seats. Its Catch 22 seat sales structure seems to underpin the habit.

It is not that Thomson won’t ever sell seats. ABTAretailers can buy seat-onlys and collect their 10% commission; and Air Travel Organiser’s Licence operators can buy from ATOLseat sales.

But not everyone fits into either category. One operator explained to me that he is not an ABTAretailer as he has no need to be one – he is a flight-only specialist tour operator, with 90% of his business dependent on one destination – eg. Timbuktoo.

Thomson serves Timbuktoo from almost every airfield from Lydd to Inverness. My operator could sell many of the seats which his spies in Timbuktoo say arrive empty.

The solution?Take a small allocation on at least one of the flight series to Timbuktoo. Not possible, say Thomson because “we need all the flights ourselves and have no spare capacity for sharers”. That leaves only two courses: taking an allocation on a route which he doesn’t often sellor splitting commission with an ABTAretailer. But that results in a small profit (50% of 10% on a discounted £99 ticket!).

So the people on the specialist’s books ready to pay a sensible price are disappointed and Thomson flies out empties. Who wins?

What is so special about Thomson that it cannot join the other major operators in selling its surplus seats to any bona fide ATOL holder, without any Catch 22 hoops?

Colin Murison Small

Hidden Greece



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