Promises, promises: the travel industry is built upon them. Unlike other businesses, months may elapse between my paying for a package, a flight or a hotel room, and actually taking delivery of it.
In an industry not celebrated for its generous trading margins, suppliers can at least savour the positive cash flow that this arrangement endows. But if promises are broken, consumer confidence is dented, and blameless providers could suffer.
Britain’s travel history is littered with brave ideas that failed to fire the imagination of travellers.
Airtours was ahead of its time in proposing northwest Costa Rica as a winter-sun destination; the programme was axed before a single departure.
The law quite rightly allows tour operators to put programmes on sale and later cancel them, refunding deposits; if every firm was obliged to operate every departure it promised, the industry would be in an even worse state.
Similarly, airlines may cancel departures up to two weeks ahead without penalty.
This winter, the practice is catching on: British Airways no longer intends to bring me back from the ABTA Travel Convention in Barcelona next month.
I will fly with easyJet instead, but the budget carrier is itself in the curious position of selling summer 2010 flights from a base, East Midlands, that it announced it wants to close in January.
Last week, I paid a bargain £48 for a transportational promise: an East Midlands-Palma flight at the end of June.
A minute after I bought it online, while still on the easyJet site, I found the statement announcing plans to abandon East Midlands in the new year.
The no-frills carrier says employment law requires it to carry on trading normally until the 90-day consultation.
While everyone sympathises with the staff whose jobs are threatened, the law is an ass if it encourages an airline to sell promises that are bound to be broken.
It is tough enough to sell genuine inventory, let alone flights that will never get off the ground.
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