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Travel chief attacks Government over Monarch collapse repatriation

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said its members had “no say” in the cost of the operation.

Attempts to recoup some of the cost of repatriating Monarch customers from travel firms are “completely unsatisfactory”, the head of a major UK travel trade organisation has claimed.

The Government is asking travel companies and credit card firms to contribute towards the £60 million it is spending on flights to bring Monarch passengers home.

Industry sources say tour operators with customers booked on Monarch flights are being urged to pay £250 per repatriated passenger.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said its members had “no say” in the cost of the operation, which is seeing all passengers – including those whose bookings were not protected through the Atol scheme – being brought home free of charge.

Some 110,000 Monarch customers were abroad when the firm went bust on October 2.

Just 10%-15% are estimated to have booked a trip protected by Atol, which ensures people who buy flights and accommodation together are flown home in the event of a company collapsing.

Mr Tanzer told Abta’s annual convention in Ponta Delgada in the Azores, Portugal, that the situation regarding customers who only purchased an airline ticket “needs to be addressed”.

He said: “There is no repatriation scheme for these customers.

“Notwithstanding this, the Government decided that they would repatriate everyone, free of charge, and try to recoup as much as it could from Atol holders and credit card companies, who were not consulted, and certainly have had no say in the cost incurred.

“This is completely unsatisfactory.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the Commons on Monday that the Government has a “duty” to taxpayers and is “engaged in constructive discussions” with credit card companies and travel firms about recouping some of the cost of the repatriation flights.

He said: “I would like to thank them for their constructive behaviour and approach.”

Mr Grayling went on: “Our efforts will turn to working through the reforms necessary to ensure passengers do not find themselves in this position again.

“We need to look at all the options, not just Atol, but also whether it is possible for airlines to be able to wind down in an orderly manner and look after their customers themselves without the need for government to step in.”

Mr Tanzer said the response of the Government has left the industry wondering “what is the point of Atol protection if everyone gets brought home anyway”, and warned that it sets a precedent for the next airline failure as “customers will expect the same free repatriation”.

He wants a levy to be introduced on all flights to create a fund for such cases.

Recent research by Which? Travel magazine revealed that holidaymakers struggle to obtain accurate information from travel firms about financial protection.

“The current situation makes it virtually impossible for the customer to make an informed, rational choice, damages consumer confidence in the industry and is not sustainable,” Mr Tanzer said.

More than 85,000 customers are expected to have been brought back to the UK by Tuesday night.

The Civil Aviation Authority said in the second week of the programme it is bringing passengers booked on a number of smaller flights on to one larger aircraft, meaning more people will return to a different airport than the one they departed from and will then be transferred by coach.

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