Lowcost boss threatens to quit Abta over bonding charges

Lowcost Travel Group has threatened to quit Abta if the association doesn’t reduce the cost of bonding or change the rules relating to it.

Chief executive Paul Evans (pictured) warned: “Lower the bonding or change the rules, or we’re gone.”

Speaking at a Lowcost lunch for agent partners, Evans said: “Why Abta is doing bonding I have no idea. It’s a trade body that does great work, but it’s become confused on the bonding issue.

“It removed consumer protection, but still wants to get involved in trade protection. Yet it only protects a minority of Atol holders.”

Evans said his threat to quit Abta was prompted by the introduction of the Flight-Plus Atol: “This has completely changed the dynamic and yet Abta hasn’t recognised that. 

“You now have Iata for scheduled flights, Atol for Flight-Plus, and the customer has credit card protection. Why the need to double-bond? It’s time for somebody to say ‘no’.”

Evans said Abta bonding cost Lowcost £2 million a year and pointed out: “Opodo, Expedia, – not one of them is a member of Abta.”

He said he had asked retailers if they would consider leaving Abta over the bonding issue and added: “Most agreed it was unnecessary, but felt the Abta logo on their websites and paperwork offered reassurance to consumers. But what does it stand for?”

Abta declined to comment, but senior industry figures dismissed Evans’ remarks. Abta director Noel Josephides, managing director of Sunvil, said: “Paul doesn’t understand the regulations. We need 10% bonding under European regulations. There is nothing anyone can do about that. It is not about Abta.

“His view is superficial. If Abta abandoned financial monitoring and bonding, which is the backbone of the association, we would all be much poorer and the industry weaker.”

Former Abta director Mike Greenacre said: “I totally disagree with Paul. Abta is probably more effective today than it has ever been. It is run very effectively.”

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