Hays Independence Group is offering former Freedom Travel Group agents the chance to keep 100% of commissions earned on future dynamic packages – providing they join as members.
Managing director John Hays said his agency had been appointed by the CAA to handle a “substantial five-figure number” of future bookings made under Freedom’s accredited body Abta licence, which will now be re-licensed by Hays.
Its assistance will not extend to Freedom’s homeworking division, Freedom Personal Travel Advisors, the trading name for Future Travel.
While he is entitled to keep all the commission, Hays added agencies that choose to join his consortium will be paid the money in full.
“What we have signed is a standard CAA agreement done many times before,” said Hays.
He added the deal had been introduced following aggressive recruitment tactics from rival consortia.
Hays said agents who chose to go elsewhere would still see Hays pick up their dynamic packages under its own Atol, but would remain the face of the transaction by dealing directly with their customers.
Freedom Travel Group and Future Travel agents, meanwhile, were left working around the clock last week after their booking systems were all but cut off following the collapse of parent Thomas Cook. Members of the Cook-owned consortium discovered after Cook’s failure they had, at best, read-only access to Freedom’s site.
Freedom agents have been left to query why this happened when it stipulates in the company’s accounts money should have been set aside to help them as part of Freedom’s accredited body Abta membership.
The most recent Freedom Travel Group accounts for the year ending 30 September 2018 show there was £18.22 million in the bank while a further £14.88 million was filed as “balances held by the company that are not available for use by the company”.
The report added: “The restricted cash relates to the Atol accredited body trust account. The amounts are ringfenced to protect and ensure those independent travel firms (our members), who are part of an accredited body (i.e. The Freedom Travel Group Limited), can continue trading even if the accredited body collapses or falls into financial difficulty.”
While the amount of money in the account this year remains unknown, Freedom members said they have not seen any cash.
Travel Trade Consultancy owner and director Martin Alcock said the accredited bodies system needed to be reformed. “In practice, Freedom members now find themselves unable to trade because they’ve lost access to systems and booking records,” he said.
TTG has approached the CAA and the Insolvency Service for clarity.
Meanwhile, David Elstob, a director of Future Travel and a co-founder of Freedom, has written an impassioned letter to Future and Freedom members, via TTG.
"I am absolutely devastated by the compulsory liquidation of our two successful businesses as a result of the collapse of Thomas Cook.
"Both Future Travel and Freedom Travel Group were profitable companies and had been so for 22 years. We were on target to make significant profits again this year.
"The circumstances surrounding our collapse were taken completely out of our hands on Sunday night (22 September).
"Obviously, we were all aware of the financial pressures on Cook, but as a profitable subsidiary we were of the opinion that, if the worst were to happen (and we didn’t think it would), Future and Freedom could be put into administration and continue to trade and be sold off as a valuable asset.
"But at an emergency board meeting late on Sunday night, we were advised that would not be possible because there were a number of very substantial cross guarantees lodged against Future and Freedom by Cook.
"We were totally unaware of those guarantees and, even now, have failed to obtain any details.
"As such, we were advised both businesses would be compulsory liquidated with immediate effect. Within hours of arriving for work on Monday morning (23 September), all staff and management were made redundant.
"These two excellent, profitable businesses, with some exceptional management and staff could – and should – have been saved.
"Thank you for all you have done for the companies over the years."