TWgroup editor Lucy HuxleyIt wasn’t long ago that John McEwan was touting the formation of a Federation of Travel Agents (FTA) – a group within ABTA to represent agents whom he felt were being sidelined.

Now he’s ABTA president, and instead it’s former board member Steven Freudmann who is rallying support for a new lobby group – this time outside the association.

The beef appears to be the same – that ABTA has become ‘The Cooks and TUI show’ and it won’t be lost on seasoned observers that old adversaries McEwan and Freudmann could lock horns yet again.

But behind the personalities is a very serious point. The agency groups Freudmann is targeting, all major DIY players, feel ABTA should be lobbying the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) harder over what they deem to be grossly unfair ATOL consultation proposals.

They argue that they don’t take into account the basics of agency law, so while most would perhaps like to get a licence, they can’t because the costs are way too prohibitive.

On the margins on which most are operating, they couldn’t meet all the VAT, supplier failure, health and safety, and extortionate bonding demands – in fact, they feel it’s completely anti-competitive.

ABTA is trying to convince the CAA to accept a ‘retail ATOL’ that would absolve agents from a number of the liabilities that come with becoming a principal.
But so far, I’m not sure it’s having much sway with the regulator.

Would a new independent FTA-type group have more luck with this and other battles? Or is the CAA just not listening to anyone?