Qwerty ruling ‘doesn’t change the rules’ says Abta

The Court of Appeal ruling on whether Qwerty Travel sold a package to a client pursuing a personal injury claim does not mean fresh uncertainty for agents selling Flight-Plus holidays, according to Abta.

The ruling in December followed an injury to a holidaymaker who booked a last-minute trip with Qwerty after spotting a deal on Teletext.

Qwerty argued it sold flights and accommodation separately, but the Court of Appeal ruled it did not do so – in part because the transaction took place just a day before departure and also because the service charges Qwerty levied provided “a unifying feature”.

Industry lawyer Stephen Mason of Travlaw described it as “a very confusing decision” and warned this week: “This is going to be a battleground.”

However, Abta head of legal services Simon Bunce told Travel Weekly: “The ruling follows the previous case law well. It was the right decision on the facts of the case.”

Bunce said: “If you impose a service fee for separate elements you have to identify what the fee is for. If you impose a blanket service charge you are going to get into difficulty if it’s on sales of individual components.”

He added: “If you put a flight and accommodation on offer at one price [for a last-minute sale], it’s difficult to argue it is not a package.

“It is possible to show one price and then make it transparent during the booking process that the customer can buy just the flights or the accommodation. But there was no evidence that happened in this case.”

Bunce said: “This does not change the rules regarding Flight Plus.” However, he said: “People doing Flight Plus have to be alert to the Abta advice on how to sell. The Qwerty ruling shows how existing case law applies in a particular case.”

The Department for Transport is poised to confirm final details of its reform of the Atol regulations which will create a new Flight Plus licence for retailers selling flights and accommodation that do not constitute a package.

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