Travel agents not happy with booking rules

The European Commission’s proposal on the Code of Conduct for Electronic Bookings Systems contains significant safety clauses, according to Greek travel agents, but fails to address the risk of travelers losing full and transparent access to air fares. The Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA), in association with international tour operator and travel agency associations ECTAA and GEBTA, are not happy with the proposal’s content, although they agree that the code of conduct had to be maintained and updated. They say that it does not tackle the growing trend of air carriers to offer varying fares and conditions for seats depending on whether consumers acquire their tickets online or through a booking system used by travel agencies. The electronic booking systems are the central distribution systems for air fares of member air carriers which allow travel agencies using them to supply direct information on fares and availability to consumers. The travel agency associations have submitted to the Commission their response on the proposal tabled last week. They argue that without specific rules for the inclusion of all details in the bookings systems, finding the most appropriate ticket for each passenger will require more time and money and eventually be at the consumers’ expense. They view favorably the proposed ban on supplying data for travel agencies in the context of statistical marketing reports that booking system companies sell to airlines, as in the past years this has proven to allow airlines access to sensitive data on the commercial policy of travel agencies. Another positive feature, travel agents say, is the maintenance of safety clauses in case airlines which own shares of booking system companies use this to distort the data provided to consumers.