I am completely stumped with what ABTA, the UK official travel body that represents the interests of a large proportion of the UK travel industry, is up to.
Seems they want to regulate airline websites in a way I don't understand at all.
Now I admit I don't understand what they are doing. Last week when I wrote about it I got back-channel comments saying it was perfectly obvious what they were doing and I shouldn't be writing about if it I was confused.
Maybe it is others who are perplexed, but just do not realise it - illustrated by recent public comments.
Here, for example, is what the ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said this week (via Travel Weekly UK)
"If this review is to truly and fairly extend the scope of consumer protection then airlines who operate click-through bookings on their sites must be made to face up to their customer responsibilities."
So what on earth is a click-through booking?
Now I asked ABTA last week what they defined a click-through booking as. I know I am not a journalist but still try to research things.
Here is what an ABTA official said:
"We are looking at aiming to agree principles and we believe ‘in principle’ that linked arrangements should be protected, but we don’t know what the definitions will be at this stage."
So, even ABTA has no idea what a click-through booking is - yet they are making it a key part of their submission to the European Union. Travel agent Broadland Travel (Nicholas Lee) stated on Twitter about the previous post:
"Load of rubbish... When ABTA members voted they vote on travel click though air-land etc. (It's the way we think)."
Er, fine. Rubbish it might be, but has Lee got a definition when ABTA does not?
So here are my key questions:
- If it really is about flights and not about packages then shouldn't ABTA be talking to the Civil Aviation Authority about ATOL and leaving the European Union out of it? (NB: remember the Package Travel Directive is about packages which doesn't actually mandate a flight, just two travel components.)
- How do you handle delayed contract bookings? Say an airline website links to a hotel website - and a consumer clicks through and books a hotel. Say that booking was actually an offer to buy rather than a contract. Then the offer is converted into a contracted booking subsequently. Well, immediately you do not have click-through bookings but click-through enquiries/quote requests. Stopping that would require mandating that any offsite links on airline websites would be prohibited because this is advertising, and not sales.
- And, finally, how would you handle websites that are operated by airlines but are not the same actual website as the flight sale site (such as MetroTwin, VTravelled et al)?
- If the proposals are to be wide-ranging can we expect to see ABTA trying to put legislation onto airlines as well?
So, before I go completely mad - perhaps you would like to comment saying what you think a click-through booking is.
Look - I am here in public saying I have no idea, ABTA officials say they have no idea - they want the European Commission to define it (sounds a bad idea to me) yet the ABTA Chief Executive want to keep saying its key to their strategy going forwards.
What a mess! Over to you - put your legal hats on and define what a click-through booking is. Thanks!