OTA association calls for reprieve on Flight Plus ‘sledgehammer’

The association representing online travel agencies (OTAs) has restated its opposition to linking holiday elements booked at different times as a single Flight-Plus booking.

The European Technology and Travel Services Association (ETTSA), which includes Expedia, Ebookers, Opodo and the global distribution systems (GDSs) as members, continues to lobby against the change expected to form part of Atol reforms about to be announced by the Department for Transport.

ETTSA secretary general Christoph Klenner said: “Our members are expected to make a huge investment in technology to track bookings over 48 hours and connect them to one another, when it is business that hardly exists.”

He said: “It is not the way consumers behave at the moment. The number of bookings made with the same company at different times number in the thousands.”

Klenner suggested “perhaps 5,000” bookings a year were made in this way with ETTSA members and described the proposal as “taking a sledgehammer to the problem”.

He said: “If customers book elements at the same time, it usually gives a price advantage. We’ve called for everything booked at one time to be covered [by Atol]. It would make more sense to put the obligation on the retailer to communicate clearly that if the consumer books later they will not be covered.”

Klenner insisted OTAs support the move to extend Atol protection, saying: “The more consumers are protected, the better for the image of the industry. If something goes wrong it is not in our interests to have thousands of people stranded.”

He also agreed the reforms need to go further and bring in airline sales of holidays, saying: “There is a discrepancy in the rules governing agents and airlines selling holidays. I can’t stress enough that we are happy to comply if Flight Plus covers everything in one transaction.”

However, he said the new October deadline for implementing systems changes was “not enough”.

Klenner downplayed a suggestion last week by Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer that the European Commission is looking at Flight Plus as a potential scheme to roll out across Europe. He said: “The EC is looking at the UK, but I have not heard they are looking at it as a blueprint. That would be a significant burden and quite a concern.”

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