Comment: Time to say goodbye to Linked Travel Arrangements

Jo Kolatsis, director of Themis Advisory, hopes the review of the Package Travel Regulations leads to the end of LTAs. This article also appears in the latest issue of Abta’s Travel Law Today

Following the long-awaited Department for Business and Trade (DBT) review of the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs), we face a period of reflection before providing a comprehensive industry response to the proposals.

Perhaps the least surprising of these is a review of Linked Travel Arrangements (LTAs) and their future. The unloved stepchild of the PTRs, LTAs continue to be a bone of contention for most of the industry.

PTR Regulation 2(3) defines an LTA as follows:

Subject to paragraph (4), a “linked travel arrangement” means at leasttwo different types of travel service purchased for the purpose of the same trip or holiday, notconstituting a package, resulting in the conclusion of separate contracts with the individual serviceproviders, if a trader facilitates —

(a) on the occasion of a single visit to, or contact with, a trader’s point of sale, the separate

selection and separate payment of each travel service by travellers (Type A); or

(b) in a targeted manner, the procurement of at least one additional travel service from

another trader where a contract with such other trader is concluded at the latest 24 hours

after the confirmation of the booking of the first travel service (Type B).

(4) Where (a) not more than one travel service of the kind listed in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of the

definition of “travel service”, and

(b) one or more tourist services of the kind listed in paragraph (d) of that definition, are purchased, those services do not constitute a linked travel arrangement if the tourist services referred to in sub-paragraph (b) do not account for a significant proportion of the combined value of the services and are not advertised as, and do not otherwise represent, an essential feature of the trip or holiday.”

Let’s not forget that if any traveller data and payment information is passed on to a supplier as part of the booking process, the LTA becomes a package.

Over the last five years, LTAs have frequently been considered when the intention is to avoid creating a package. However, package organisers and prospective LTA facilitators often tie themselves in knots due to the various ways a package could inadvertently be created.

It is a welcome relief that the DBT is looking seriously at the future of LTAs. The proposals consider whether LTAs should be removed from the PTRs or the definition should be simplified. The DBT highlights three options:

  1. Discontinuing the category of LTAs;
  2. Amending the definition of a package to include some or all arrangements currently defined as LTAs;
  3. Retaining the LTA category but limiting the ways in which an LTA can be created.

In considering options one and two, the DBT confirms that any combinations under those options would mean arrangements are either packages or non-packages, leading to a simplification of the requirements.  As simplification is one of the goals of the consultation, it is hard to see the rationale for keeping LTAs within the PTRs.

In considering option three, the consultation considers removing Type B LTAs and amending the definition of Type A. The definition of Type A could be adjusted to encompass bookings made when selecting two or more services from a trader website within a 24-hour period. This essentially brings in some of the wording from a Type B LTA as it currently stands.

If simplification is really what the DBT is trying to achieve, its explanation is anything but simple. It attempts to explain how the concept of an LTA could continue to work within the PTRs, along with some examples of how an LTA could look in future, but it is unconvincing about the merits of LTAs at all.

From a legal perspective, I’ve yet to meet anyone who can explain an LTA simply or is confident about booking these types of arrangements. While a customer may have an LTA explained during the booking process and be provided with confirmation that it does not form a package, I don’t believe any customer truly understands what an LTA is.

If many in the industry struggle to explain or understand an LTA, how can we have any hope of convincing consumers this is a good option for them? There are no known cases of an LTA being challenged.

However, I guess that if subjected to legal scrutiny as to whether an LTA or a package was created at the time of booking (depending on the facts), a court could find in favour of the consumer.

The DBT has a golden opportunity to clear up the confusion. If there are arrangements the DBT believes should be packages, its final proposals should include only those arrangements that form packages and make it simple for everyone.

What is the benefit of including arrangements within the PTRs that are not packages (but could potentially become packages)? It leads to ambiguity and confusion for organisers and travellers.

It is time to say goodbye to LTAs.

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