Agent emotions are running high in the wake of the Tempo Holidays and Bentours collapse announced last Thursday with many still in the dark as to whether client bookings will be honoured.

Less than a week on from the devastating news which saw 90 staff lose their jobs and administrators lock the head office doors in Melbourne and Auckland, there are still more questions than answers with many agents taking to social media to voice their concerns and frustrations.

The heightened state of emotion and industry anxiety has not been helped by the shocking news yesterday of British travel company Thomas Cook closing their doors and leaving 150,000 British passengers left to be brought home by other carriers in the UK’s biggest ever peacetime repatriation.

READ: THOMAS COOK: Qantas Asked To Join Operation Matterhorn & Rescue Travellers

The only good news for British Thomas Cook customers currently abroad is that they are protected by the British ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) scheme, meaning their holiday accommodation, as well as return flights, are guaranteed.

The British ATOL scheme ensures that while holidaymakers may end up enduring stressful changes of plans and potential delays in getting home, their holidays will be covered financially.

Future bookings are also protected, with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who runs the scheme advising that if an ATOL protected firm collapses, and a British customer has not yet begun their trip, it would advise them on how to make a claim for a refund. Or, in some cases, the CAA “will appoint a fulfilment partner to provide the holiday”.

Here in Australia, The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) yesterday confirmed that their AFTA Chargeback Scheme (ACS) will only be valid for Tempo Holidays and Bentours bookings made via credit card and before August 22nd.

Tempo Holidays was excluded as an ATAS supplier from coverage under the ACS scheme for any transactions occurring after 12pm on the 22nd August 2019.

AFTA said all ATAS accredited participants were informed about Tempo’s exclusion from the scheme and have since issued a fact sheet outlining helpful steps for members.

Image: Bentours

There has since been much discussion among agents and industry about whether this response is adequate.

Founder and CEO of Crooked Compass Lisa Pagotto commented that the scheme “intends to protect the client and their funds, yet when ATAS is revoked from an operator, and the clients have still booked through an ATAS retail agent, their funds are not protected (unless booked by credit card).”

“If this is the case, why does enett and payment gate even exist?” she questioned.

“Where is the responsibility from ATAS for the ATAS retail stores and also the responsibility of the head offices of the retailers to contact every store who has bookings with a debunked ATAS operator? Surely the responsibility must be to tell their consultants to move to a new ATAS supplier and assist with the process if needed when that accreditation is first revoked to avoid agents being in the position many will face today,” Lisa said.

She noted than many agents were asking for advice on what to do now:

“Do they self-fund lost client money? Or tell the client too bad?”

Founder and CEO of Crooked Compass Lisa Pagotto

“Many are self-funding including some who are drawing on their mortgage or dipping into super funds,” Lisa told us this morning.

Lisa Pagotto, Crooked Compass

Alex Obleschuk of Tour Atlas commented that the front line needs to band together and call for change as they are the ones “who bear the brunt of consumer dissatisfaction”.

While Agent Richelle Stewart believes there should be “a national insurance scheme that agents can opt into to protect their clients and their business.”

“I’d much prefer to be paying this and looking after my clients than the annual fee to AFTA to have them say they approve of my business. Their approval does not guarantee the success of it,” Richelle said.

Cox and Kings, founded 1758

More news is also coming to light of troubled Cox and Kings – Tempo Holidays and Bentours parent company, defaulting again on payment obligations last week in the UK.

While the story from Cox and Kings (India) was that of Tempo Holidays and Bentours performing badly in Australia and New Zealand, hence their closure, the truth appears to be quite the opposite, with Cox and Kings seemingly needing to strip away assets in a bid to recoup their debts and stay afloat.

A bid now for Cox and Kings, which it appears is looking increasingly unlikely from coming off.

The news will be especially sour for the 90 Tempo Holidays and Bentours employees in Australia and New Zealand who are believed to have been retrenched last Thursday, with Friday being the last day for most in the business.

Do you have an opinion or update you’d like to share? Email us at [email protected]