The deal between easyJet and Lowcost Travel Group could be “the end of the line” for consumer protection, according to an influential tour operator.
Sunvil managing director and Abta board member Noel Josephides said today: “If easyJet acts as an agent but masquerades as a tour operator it will be the end of the line. It will not benefit the public. It would show big and powerful companies can put two fingers up to the government.”
Speaking in a debate on the future of travel at World Travel Market in London, Josephides said he was seeking to pressure the government “to do what is best for the consumer”.
EasyJet rejected Josephides’ comments. A spokesperson for the airline said, “We refute any claims that customers will not be protected when purchasing an easyJet holiday product. Customers will be fully protected in accordance with the Package Travel Regulations. This is about offering the public a low cost, convenient way of booking holidays.”
EasyJet and Lowcost Travel Group have announced a three-year deal to combine the carrier’s flights with Lowcost’s rooms and transfers, to be sold through easyjet.com/holidays. The venture will launch in the UK early next year.
Details of the holiday operation have yet to be revealed, but there has been speculation easyJet may organise sales of these holidays outside the ATOL consumer protection regime – although Abta member Lowcost does hold an Atol.
At the same time, the Department for Transport is poised to reveal proposals to expand the ATOL regime to include flight-and-room combinations booked online.
Josephides also argued the industry has a “grave problem” with mid-size tour operators and hotels being squeezed between the low-cost carriers and major travel groups Tui Travel and Thomas Cook.
“The middle range of tour operators has disappeared and hotels in the mid-range are having a lot of pain,” he said. “This will be very serious for a lot of destinations.
“Many destinations believed no-frills carriers would fill their hotels. It is increasingly clear they do not. They are good for people who own their own villas, not for hotels. The Algarve this year is 30% down and it has no-frills carriers coming out of its ears. Cyprus is down and it has low-cost carriers.”
- More from World Travel Market at travelweekly.co.uk/wtm2010