Abta believes the CAA was wrong to deny agents unpaid commission on Thomas Cook bookings when they handed over pipeline money following the company’s failure.
Simon Bunce, Abta head of legal services, said: “The agents had done everything right. They had the pipeline money and they have been perfectly happy to hand it over. They should be able to keep their commission.”
Speaking at law firm Travlaw’s annual Big Tent Event in London on Monday, Bunce said: “I’m very supportive of the CAA in this process [of handling Thomas Cook’s liquidation], but this is wrong.”
He noted the requirement for agents to hand over all payments from consumers following an Atol-holder’s failure “is in the [Atol] rules, and it has been like this for a long time”. But he insisted: “We’ll be taking this up with the CAA [on completion of the process].”
The amount of commission lost by third-party agents remains unclear.
Kelly Cookes, who was head of commercial partnerships and sales planning at Thomas Cook when the group went into liquidation, agreed.
She said: “The agents had done all the work. They had sold the holiday. They had supported the tour operator and passed on the money.
“To not receive the commission wasn’t what they were expecting. It was a shock. It didn’t help keep businesses afloat.”
Cookes joined The Advantage Travel Partnership as leisure director in October, but until last June was general manager of the Thomas Cook-owned Freedom Travel Group. She said: “Some Freedom members lost businesses they had spent years building up [due to the system shut-down following Thomas Cook’s collapse].”
However, a senior industry source suggested criticism of the CAA over non-payment of commissions was unwarranted, saying: “The CAA paid agents [who passed on pipeline money] £50 each as an admin fee, regardless of the value of a booking. There were winners and losers from that.”
The source added: “Freedom members got all their commission [on bookings] through the Accredited Body.”
If you were a Freedom member and wish to give details of your experience, Travel Weekly executive editor Ian Taylor would be interested to hear more. He can be contacted at email@example.com