Aito slams BA over lack of ash cloud compensation

Aito has accused British Airways of kicking mud in the face of tour operators after the airline said it would not refund operators for looking after customers in the wake of the ash cloud crisis.

The comments were made by the association’s director of industry affairs Noel Josephides, who added operators may soon switch-sell away from the airline as it undergoes continued problems affecting its performance.

He was speaking in the wake of last week’s legal announcement by Lime Management, which handles operator bookings for the airline, that the airline has no obligation to cover costs for an operator or agent who has looked after a customer stranded overseas following the ash cloud crisis.

Josephides said: “I am saddened that BA sees fit to treat its tour operator partners in this way.

“Aito operators have continued loyally to book their customers on to BA flights – despite the many downsides, such as strike action, of so doing – and now get mud kicked in their faces yet again.

“I believe that at least some Aito members will now reconsider whether or not they should work with BA, although – with its potential tie-ups with Iberia and American – it will control a large number of routes.”

The association has also written to a House of Lords committee which was due to meet this afternoon to discuss whether or not to refund airlines in the wake of the ash cloud.

The letter urges the committee to also take into account the costs borne by operators during and after the ash cloud and urges them to consider compensating operators too.

“When you take into account the relative size of tour operators versus the size of airlines, this is substantial in terms of its impact on the tour operating companies concerned and is certainly equal to the effect on airlines’ bottom lines,” the letter states.

“As an example, a mid-sized tour operator paid out £100,000 to get its passengers home; its turnover is £24 million and its profits around £400,000 a year. This also included loss of business.

“Smaller companies suffered even more in proportion to their profitability.”

Josephides said failure by the government to resolve the issue now could leave them open to greater problems in the future.

He said: ““The government runs the risk by not approving refunds that, the next time there is a similar crisis – volcanic or otherwise – both airlines and tour operators will refuse to act, leaving government in a very vexed situation and at the mercy of the wrath of thousands of angry consumers/voters.”

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