Aito has revealed plans to set up an ‘aviation task force’ to improve communication channels for members with airlines.
The Specialist Travel Association (Aito) made the announcement at this year’s conference, held in Hinckley, Leicestershire.
The move aims to create a dialogue with airlines after problems for travel companies to secure flight refunds for their clients during the pandemic.
Head of commercial Bharat Gadhoke said the move was to use Aito’s collective power to give its tour operator and travel agent members ‘a voice’.
He said: “We realised last year we needed a communication channel with airlines to say ‘we are spending half a billion pounds with you, surely we deserve a seat at the table to discuss these issues’. It’s about opening up dialogue as Aito. At the moment we have no voice to resolve issues.”
The scale and size of the task force and how it will work have yet to be hammered out, he added, but it is likely to include input from Aito members which run airline charters.
Aito is likely to discuss issues with low-cost airlines first and then broaden communication out to other UK based airlines.
Aito member Brett Gerrett, of Isleworth Travel, who helped Aito to form a communication channel with airlines and persuade them to take a more ‘holistic approach’ during the pandemic, said the task force had no commercial aims but rather to work collectively to resolve issues facing members.
He added: “This is so we can be recognised, instead of [members] just being seen as a number.”
He said the pandemic had left many companies, particularly tour operators, no longer wanting to sell flights while many were still chasing refunds owed during Covid.
He added: “There is talk of not selling flights [by some companies] but clients are still going to want that service. There is still a backlog of refunds from airlines that don’t have staff or are in Chapter 11 bankrupcty so they can’t refund.”