ECONOMY

HATTA threatens action over fare hikes

The Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA) has threatened to stop selling domestic air tickets and even to lodge protests with local and European bodies over local airlines’ decision to raise fares and abolish economy seats. The decision came after a meeting between HATTA members, tourist operators, convention organizers, travel agents and representatives from Olympic Airways, Aegean Cronus Airlines and Axon Airlines late Tuesday. Airlines in recent days have announced plans to raise air fares for the winter season, abolish special rates and cut down on frequencies in order to cope with reduced traffic due principally to the current global crisis. They also slashed the commission paid to travel agents for air ticket sales, cutting it to 6.94 percent from the usual 9 to 10 percent. Earlier this week, Aegean Airlines denied increasing air ticket charges. The new prices were actually the normal fares, it said. The company said it had decided to discontinue special deals, leading to the impression of fare reductions. The coordinated and pre-arranged move between airlines infringes free competition, HATTA said in a statement yesterday. The association said that doing away with economy rates will create more problems during a period of low activity. Airlines should instead reinstate that category of seats, even if in a limited numbers. They should also incorporate the various levies into the fare and reimplement the traditional commission paid to travel agents. HATTA proposed to set up a committee to talk the issues over with airline companies, with the aim of getting the latter to retract the fare increases. The alternative would be for travel agents to stop issuing air tickets for domestic destinations and even turning to Greek or European competitive bodies. However, the current restructuring of the wholesale distribution market could force the smaller companies to merge.