European trade body warns against package travel proposals

The European travel agents’ and tour operators’ association (ECTAA) has expressed alarm at European Commission proposals to reform the Package Travel Directive (PTD) which could limit pre-payments to package organisers.

ECTAA wrote to EC president Ursula von der Leyen, transport commissioner Adina Valean and justice commissioner Didier Reynders this week requesting an urgent meeting.

It noted PTD review proposals expected to be issued on November 29 include an “intention to introduce a limitation on pre-payments” when a review of EU Regulation 261 on air passenger rights “will lack corresponding measures” on pre-payments to airlines.

ECTAA pointed to “the delays in airlines reimbursing passengers for cancelled flights” during the Covid-19 pandemic and “the impact on travel intermediaries” and accused the EC directorate generals for transport, responsible for air passenger rights, and justice – responsible for the PTD – of “diverging objectives” and “lack of political ambition”.

It argued: “The majority of issues concerning passenger protection during the pandemic were directly linked to airline practices.”

The association complained: “Even protecting passengers’ payments against airline insolvency will not be included [in the PTD reform] or might merely be addressed as an obligation to inform consumers on the availability of insurance.

“To make things worse, there are considerations to narrow the scope of the PTD by excluding loose combinations sold by airlines via third-party traders from being categorised as Linked Travel Arrangements (LTAs).”

ECTAA warned this would permit carriers “to sell combinations of travel services without having to adhere to any of the obligations in the PTD”, providing a “loophole” for larger airlines “to offer unprotected combinations”, disrupting competition and “harming consumers by reducing the availability of packages”.

Abta, a member of the ECTAA until Britain left the EU in 2021, continues to work with the association.

The UK government is also looking separately at the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) and air passenger rights.

The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) issued a call for evidence on reform of the PTRs last month, but proposed reform of UK air passenger rights by the Department for Transport has stalled.

The DBT proposals include scrapping LTAs or bringing them within the definition of a package, as well as the removal of UK domestic packages and of packages below a certain price threshold. However, there is no mention of consumer pre-payments.

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