Agents are ratcheting up pressure on suppliers to be more flexible on final booking payment dates, with balances for the start of the peak summer season now due.

The issue threatens to be one of the biggest challenges agents face in the coming weeks.

Balances are generally required by operators eight to 12 weeks prior to departure, with payments currently sought for breaks in the first week of the school holidays.

Agents are calling for balance due dates to be pushed closer to departure.

The Advantage Travel Partnership leisure director Kelly Cookes said: “We are getting increasingly worried.”

The consortium is seeking flexibility from suppliers because of the extra paperwork involved in processing a refund if a holiday is cancelled, and to limit further damage to consumer confidence.

Cookes said a grace period of two weeks could make “all the difference”.

The Travel Network Group is challenging suppliers to change payment terms. Membership services director Stephanie Slark said: “Along with refunds, this is the biggest challenge facing frontline staff.
As we get towards the summer peak, affected booking numbers are increasing.”

Cherie Richards, commercial director, Global Travel Group, said it was encouraging consortium members to contact suppliers themselves in addition to itelf contacting all supplier partners to seek a change in balance collection dates. She said: “We welcome all measures that will support our agents and their businesses right now, including flexibility from operators collecting balances on summer holiday bookings.”

Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson said: “Flexibility is the main concern on holidaymakers’ minds right now.”

Peter Cookson, managing director of Spear Travels, called for “realistic” due dates of three weeks before departure, but said: “If the flights haven’t been cancelled by the airline, it is a problem for the operator.”

Some suppliers have altered booking conditions but bigger operators’ terms remain largely unchanged.

Jet2holidays requests balances 10 weeks before departure. But trade sales general manager Craig Davidson said: “We have a range of flexible options to help agents save bookings.”

Tui offers a balance due date of four weeks before departure for holidays booked after March 16 but requires balance payments at 12 weeks for all other holidays.

Olympic Holidays offers the chance to part-pay for departures up to August 15. Balkan Holidays asks for balances four weeks ahead rather than its previous 10. Red Sea Holidays has reduced due dates to two weeks out for June and July and four weeks for August and September, instead of 12 weeks.

If Only said it was striving to offer “as long a payment window possible based on the suppliers used within the package”. Gordon McCreadie, product and distribution director, said: “Each of our suppliers, whether air, ground, touring or cruise, have their own policies which we need to adhere to, therefore processing and amending these must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”