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24 Aug 2016

BY Jennifer Morris

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Airbnb ‘moving forward’ into operator space?

Airbnb seems “set down the path of acting more like an OTA or a tour operator” after its first foray into selling flights, industry experts have warned.

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How far is Airbnb willing to go?

It comes after Lufthansa ran a campaign between July 22 and August 10 on the home rental site, offering Premium Economy flights from Frankfurt to New York for €699.

 

While the bookings were confirmed via Lufthansa’s call centre, the payment was processed through Airbnb. Following an apparently “successful” trial, both parties have signalled this could now spark the start of new practices.

 

An Airbnb spokesperson told TTG: “This was a novel and creative use of our platform that we have not seen before; it’s given us a lot to think about as we move forward."

 

A Lufthansa spokesperson added that the airline’s social media channels received 600,000 impressions related to the offer within its first two days. “Lufthansa’s Airbnb account will remain and we will continue discussing if and how we will cooperate with Airbnb in the future,” she added.

 

Nadejda Popova, travel project manager at Euromonitor, has predicted Airbnb could soon begin packaging up holidays. “Seeing as Airbnb partners with players such as Tesla [the electric car company], why [could we] not see airlines partnering with listed properties on Airbnb to sell travel packages?” she said. Industry experts have raised concerns as to whether the site will be subject to the same regulations as other operators.

 

Abta chairman Noel Josephides insisted that the trade was not “frightened of competition” – as long as there was a level playing field. “If Airbnb does start to put packages together for the UK market, then they would find it very hard to not come under the Package Travel Directive, and would therefore have to provide financial security and take full responsibility for the accommodation they are providing,” he told TTG.

 

“It would be very interesting to see if they would do that, or try to side-step the regulations. None of us are particularly frightened of competition, all we are worried about is that these new companies, which are called disruptors, do actually follow regulations.”

 

Director of the Travel Trade Consultancy, Martin Alcock, agreed: “This definitely sets Airbnb down the path of acting more like an OTA or a tour operator, which is a very different business model to what they currently operate.

 

“They have traditionally positioned themselves very much as a platform. But if they start selling flights together with accommodation as part of their model there will be lots of additional legislative consequences. “If they actively make flights available to the UK market then they will find it very difficult to argue that they don’t fall under Atol,” he warned. “It would become even more difficult for them to side-step it if the new Package Travel Directive comes into effect in mid-2018, as we currently expect.”

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