Agents hit back at claims they were to blame for travel chaos

Agents have joined Abta in hitting back at claims in The Times that they were partly at fault for the half-term travel chaos and had committted fraud.

The comment piece in The Times newspaper – which also blamed airlines and airports – said agents had “knowingly” sold holidays “without any certainty flights were available”.

It went as far as to accuse agents of “old-fashioned fraud”, saying: “Travel agents that take money for holidays that they know cannot be delivered are guilty of old-fashioned fraud, and should be tracked down and prosecuted.”

Agents said they were shocked by the claims, describing them as “ridiculous” and backed Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer’s letter to the newspaper in which he said the comment was “doing thousands of hard-working agents an incredible disservice”.

Advantage Travel Partnership leisure director Kelly Cookes said: “Our priority remains to ensure there is a balanced perspective, not gloss over the ‘chaos’ but reinforce the booking with agent narrative. It’s important we are seen as strong consumer advocates. Agents could not have foreseen these issues.”

C The World director Carolyn Park described the comments as “ignorant” and “out of order” while Launceston Travel proprietor Julie Bickle said: “It’s ridiculous. No-one would knowingly do that. We have no prior knowledge about what is going to be cancelled.”

Spear Travels chairman Peter Cookson said there was a lack of understanding of the difference between tour operators, traditional travel agents and online agents which self-package holidays.

“You cannot lump all travel agents together,” he said, adding: “Are agents supposed to have crystal balls?”

Leading industry figures have blamed the government’s stop-start travel policies and lack of support over the past two years for the delays and cancellations.

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