Abta must “remember its roots” as a body supporting agents ahead of the implementation of the Package Travel Directive.
That was the call from the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) president Ken McLeod during the body’s annual dinner in Glasgow last night.
McLeod, who is also director of industry affairs at The Advantage Travel Partnership, said Abta needed to “represent agents’ anger at this nonsense more forcibly”.
“Remember your roots Abta, you are the association of British travel agents not the association of British tour operators,” he said.
Despite McLeod initially joking that he “could not possibly” use his inaugural speech as president to “rail against” those who have “wrecked-havoc” on the Scottish travel agent in the past year, he used the opportunity to address a number of trade issues including Air Passenger Duty (APD), the ban on card fees and GDS surcharging.
On the upcoming implementation of the PTD, he said: “Any comments that I may have had would be wasted regarding the continued saga of the Package Travel Directive and Atol legislation where both the government and the CAA do not seem to be seeing eye-to-eye on what those guidance rules should be.
“What chance have we in the trade and indeed the public got when the legislators can’t agree on its interpretation?”
“If I had been asked to comment on it, which indeed I haven’t, I would have said it is an atrocious way to treat an industry such as ours.”
McLeod said that as the industry was only nine weeks away from the PTD being implemented in its new format on July 1, and the trade still not knowing the exact guidance rules for the legislation, showed “how far removed the government department that is involved in this is”.
“I have some sympathy with the CAA and the challenge they have been given. It’s not all bad news and there are positives – but there appears to be more questions than answers and at this point with the timing it is not good enough.
“The trade associations – including the SPAA – need to have one voice to get their opinions across.”
During the SPAA’s 88th annual dinner at Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza, rescheduled from March 1 due to bad weather, McLeod also took aim at GDS surcharging imposed by airlines such as British Airways, Lufthansa and KLM/Air France.
He said the move had “made many a small and medium-sized travel agent uncompetitive.”
“Although in the airlines’ eyes it is a good commercial decision to force cheaper and more effective distribution, the travel agent has been squeezed in the middle of what is essentially a dispute between the GDS and the airlines,” he argued.
“Scottish agents’ percentage of domestic flight bookings are far greater than elsewhere in the UK so the GDS fees are having a disproportionate effect on our members.
Touching upon APD, McLeod told the audience that he believed the "clock was ticking" for the Scottish government to act on its proposal to halve the tax by the end of its current term in 2021.
"Not acting on APD doesn’t fly anymore...pun fully intended," he said.