The CAA found itself at loggerheads with a travel industry lawyer at Abta’s Travel Law Seminar on Thursday (23 May) over agents’ legal responsibilities around so-called “Package Plus” bookings.
Rhys Griffiths, partner and head of travel at Fox Williams, discussed whether under the new Package Travel Regulations implemented last July agents may be deemed a package organiser for selling certain travel services in addition to a package.
He used the example of selling a client a night at an airport hotel prior to their package holiday departure – with both elements purchased in the same transaction.
“Is it deemed a package? If it is then you would be the person who enabled it to take place,” he said.
“It’s a grey area, but in my view, it is not a package – you have a package and a separate travel service. I don’t see how the fact you’ve sold hotel accommodation as an agent alongside the package makes you the organiser. Ultimately, this hasn’t been tested in court.”
David Bourne, head of regulation and governance at the CAA, said in its role as “a very consumer-focused” organisation, liability came down to extra travel services impacting “the effective delivery and the consumer’s enjoyment of the holiday”.
“Rhys’s example is only one possible way this issue emerges,” he said. “Another example would be selling a safari, a package in its own right, then adding a flight. If anything was to go wrong with that element, we would say the purpose of the new regulations has been defeated.
“The purpose of the law is packages, and things that look like packages, are protected. We have taken legal advice that doesn’t agree with Rhys’s interpretation and supports an alternative version of the law.”
Despite the debate around liability, Bourne said the CAA was currently not aware of agents selling additional travel services as “causing big issues” with “no harm being done”.