On the Beach resigns from Abta Ian Taylor

The UK’s biggest online travel agent On the Beach has resigned from Abta over the association’s policy on refunding customers when the Foreign Office advises against travel to a destination. However, On the Beach

tour operator subsidiary Classic Collection Holidays and trade platform Classic Package Holidays remain Abta members and will continue to comply with the association’s refunds policy. An On the Beach spokesperson

confirmed: “Classic Collection and Classic Package Holidays will remain Abta members and are committed to supporting our agent partners.” Abta affirmed its longstanding

policy that Foreign Office (FCDO) advice against all but essential travel requires members to cancel bookings and offer full refunds last month after On the Beach, Loveholidays and a third small OTA declined to refund customers the flight element of package bookings to Spain unless the airline cancelled the flight and made a refund. The On the Beach spokesperson

said: “The travel industry is facing unprecedented challenges and changes are inevitable as businesses adapt. On the Beach has been an Abta member since 2004; however, the current circumstances have presented difficult decisions and different legal interpretations. “On the Beach and [subsidiary OTA] package

The current

circumstances have presented difficult decisions and different legal interpretations

holidays continue to be financially protected by the Atol scheme and our ring-fenced trust account.” On the Beach confirmed its

policy when the FCDO advises against travel, saying: “Customers can choose to cancel their holiday. We will fully refund hotel and transfer costs. If the flight operates, airlines retain the monies for the flight which leaves us unable to pass a refund on. If the airline cancels the flight, we will

pass the refund on in full.” An Abta spokesperson said:

“We’re sorry On the Beach has resigned as a member following ongoing discussions about refunds due to customers when Foreign Office advice changes to advise against all but essential travel. “We recognise the widespread

advisories against travel place many Abta members under enormous pressure regarding refunds. But Abta has maintained the underlying obligation to refund remains. Abta believes this is important to ensure consumer confidence in the package holiday market.” No one from Loveholidays was

available for comment but the OTA remained an Abta member as Travel Weekly went to press.

Thomas Cook completes return as online agent

Travel Weekly reporters

The Thomas Cook brand completed its return in the UK this week as Chinese conglomerate Fosun relaunched the former travel giant as an online travel agent. The Thomas Cook OTA was set

to launch on Wednesday, following confirmation at the weekend that it had received its Atol licence. Travel Weekly reported last week

that Cook’s owners were expected to relaunch the brand with a “cautious” Atol licence this week, having been

6 17 SEPTEMBER 2020

encouraged by the government’s go- ahead for island travel corridors. The OTA is being run in the UK

by a team including former Thomas Cook group strategy and technology director Alan French as chief executive and former head of sales, e-commerce and marketing Phil Gardner as chief commercial officer, with 50 staff all working remotely – many of whom worked for Cook before its collapse. The brand will operate purely

online at, with an initial focus on three to-five-star

Alan French

product in destinations on the UK government’s ‘safe lists’. It will use a trust model to ring-fence payments. Customers will be able to tailor-

make itineraries, with add-ons available including transfers, car hire, airport parking, currency and travel insurance. French said the team was

launching “clearly aware of the short-term challenges posed by the pandemic” but said they and Fosun were “taking the long view”. He said all hotel bookings would

be flexible with no change fees if government rules changed.

And he added: “Thanks to

new ownership and a new robust financial structure, customers can be reassured their money is protected. We will use a trust model to ring-fence customers’ payments, meaning Thomas Cook only receives customers’ money once they’ve returned from holiday.” French described the demise

of Cook last year as “a tragedy at a personal level for many thousands of my former colleagues, business

partners and our loyal customers”. i Get Social, page 27

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