Can we trust travel companies to know?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Thomas Cook staff seemed to know less about ATOL protection that should be expected

Not to gladden the hearts of holidaymakers and travellers is the result of an investigation by Which Travel? into the knowledge that staff at eight travel companies have about ATOL.

Which? Travel made 80 calls to eight travel companies;  Expedia, Travel Republic, Thomas Cook, Travelpack, Trailfinders, British Airways, Ryanair and Bravofly, part of Lastminute.com, asking questions about the circumstances where holidaymakers would be covered by ATOL protection.

The magazine says that the research was carried out in June which would be before the Ryanair flight cancellations and the collapse of Monarch. It says that travel professionals gave exaggerated and contradictory advice to customers. Staff at Thomas Cook performed particularly poorly, it says, getting less than 50% of questions right.

The company also says that British Airways and Bravofly.com exaggerated ATOL protection, with representatives of the former wrongly telling researchers on several occasions that they would be covered if they just purchased a flight.

What I find deeply concerning is not so much the attitudes of staff who could always go and find out the answer but the attitude of two of the companies involved. The travel industry online letter, TravelMole rang Bravolfy.com and was told by a spokesman for lasminute.com told them, “Bravofly.com~is an international website and does not target the UK market, hence why we are not obliged to provide ATOL protection.” That may be so but its staff should still be trained to be able to answer questions from potential passengers wherever it operates. Even if it doesn’t target the UK market it doesn’t say that it won’t accept British bookers. To the Which Holiday Report? it gave a different answer saying that it expects its staff to have ATOl knowledge. Which part of the company is to be believed?

Which? Travel also criticised Ryanair for incorrectly claiming, this has now been dropped, that its package travel subsidiary, Ryanair Holidays, was a member of the ATOL scheme when it patently wasn’t. In answer to my question as to whether we can trust travel companies to know the answers and tell us, the answer is a definate no. At least for these eight companies.

Is it time for the CAA to do spot checks on those who are ATOL bonded to compile its own statistics on how teh companies train their staff?

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