Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association president Ken McLeod urged industry bodies to come together and speak as “one voice” in his speech at the body’s annual dinner.

McLeod pulled few punches in a 17-minute salvo in which the government departments, the Civil Aviation Authority, Abta, GDS operators and banks all came under fire over issues such as the ban on credit card fees, air passenger duty, GDS surcharges, Atol reform and incoming package travel regulations.

He urged unity among various groups, organisations or “clans” within travel, adding: “The trick is, as an industry, with all our respective types of clans, we need to ensure we all speak with one voice, because, a travel industry divided is a travel industry with an uncertain future.”

The SPAA hosted its 88th annual dinner at Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza last night after it was rescheduled from March 1 when bad weather forced it to be postponed.

McLeod, who is also director of industry affairs at The Advantage Travel Partnership, first tackled the impact of the ban on credit and debit card fees, which he said had hit “agents in particular”, by increasing costs that ultimately had to be passed on to the consumer.

He said: “Realigning the fees on one side, then loading it on the other seems like the banks maintaining their own status quo, with agents in particular, the losers.

“Soon the banks will have competition in the market, but not soon enough and the government needs to re-look at the impact it is having on this industry.”

The “saga” of the Package Travel Directive and Atol legislation was next on McLeod’s hitlist. He said: “Both the government and the CAA don’t seem to be seeing eye to eye on what those guidance rules should be.

“What chance have we in the trade, or indeed the public got when the legislators can’t agree on the interpretation. It’s an atrocious way to treat an industry such as ours.

“We are now only nine weeks away from the PTD being implemented in its new format on July 1, and we still don’t know what those rules are. A situation which shows how far removed that government department is from the business end of the travel industry, with little time to adjust our business models.

“I have some sympathy with the CAA and the challenge they’ve been given, and indeed the directive is not all bad news, there are some positives, but as usual there appear to be more questions than answers at this point which quite frankly is simply not good enough.

“The trade associations, and I include the SPAA in that, need to have one voice in getting our opinions across. Abta especially, as the lead authority for agents, needs to represent agents anger at this nonsense more forcibly.”

McLeod also went on to say the GDS surcharging imposed by British Airways, Lufthansa and KLM/Air France had created an “industry of haves and have nots where price differential on every GDS booking has made many a small and medium sized travel agent uncompetitive.”

He added: “Although in the airlines eyes, it may be a good commercial decision designed to force cheaper and more effective distribution, the travel agent has been squeezed in the middle of what essentially is a dispute between the GDS and the airlines.”

McLeod added “complexity is the friend of the airlines” saying: “Without the travel agent the GDS don’t have a substantial part of their business so why make life more difficult for us, the customer, than they had to.”

On APD, McLeod cited Ryanair, Norwegian and United Airlines’ assertions that they pulled or reduced services from Glasgow as a result of air passenger duty and reminded the sitting Scottish parliament that it promised to act on the tax by the end of its current term in 2021.

“Not acting on APD doesn’t fly anymore,” he said. “Pun fully intended.”

After telling the room about how an eventful cruise trip to Russia with school sparked his love of travel, McLeod ended back on the point of unity, when he said:

“That’s where the SPAA comes in. As an organisation we are here to challenge and defend, protect and influence. But we are also here to find sensible solutions. We are not alone.”