Agents plead with ABTA to extend balance payment deadline
Published on Thursday, April 2, 2020
An independent agent has posted an open letter to ABTA on social media asking for it to bring in an industry-wide temporary 30-day balance deadline date for the coming months.
Andy Tomlinson, managing director of Midlands-based Sutton Travel, said the move would help ‘buy us all a little bit of time and let our clients know that we understand their current predicaments’.
He said the change should also be extended to non-ABTA ‘friends and colleagues’ at Global, TTA, and similar non ABTA agency groups.
Advantage Holidays has already moved its balance deadline to 28 days before departure for all departures up until July 31. “We will continue to monitor and extend this where necessary,” said head of Advantage Holidays Lee Ainsworth.
“These are unparalleled times and, as such, agents need unparalleled flexibility for their clients and a temporary change to current payment terms – and cancellation charge deadlines/bands – for departures in June and July would buy us all a little bit of time and to let our clients know that we understand their current predicaments,” said Tomlinson in his open letter.
He said many agents were still having to help customers stranded overseas, rebook clients who’ve just had their Easter holidays cancelled, and assist those bookings departing over the next few weeks.
“Therefore a delay in balance deadline dates would give agents some breathing space for the bulk of summer month balance collections, which are starting to fall overdue now,” he said.
Tomlinson warned that if tour operators refuse to extend the balance payment deadline, there is a danger many clients will cancel their holidays.
“If we can delay the balance payment, it is going to help agents and operators hold on to those bookings,” said Tomlinson. “I know, from my 30 years working in the travel industry, that for most holidays, the tour operators doesn’t need to pay for hotels or seats until 30 days before departure, so I think they could introduce this additional flexibility given the circumstances we’re in.”
Tomlinson’s Facebook post quickly attracted messages of support from other frustrated agents.
One agent said balance payments were her ‘biggest headache’ while another said ABTA needs to help ‘NOW before there is nobody to help’.
One agent said she has four bookings to cancel tomorrow for end of June July ‘as there is no customer confidence to pay’ then she has August to worry about and ‘hundreds in September’.
She added: “ABTA, if you’re listening, Andy is right, give us all a fighting chance.”
Other comments on industry social media forums highlight the stresses and challenges currently being faced by agents on the frontline, especially with many of them left holding the fort while other staff members have been furloughed.