The suspension of flights and subsequent collapse of the Dutch scheduled airline Vbird last week (14 October 2004), resulted in hundreds of passengers - a number of them British - being stranded and having to buy alternative tickets to get back to the UK.
Other passengers with forward bookings are unlikely to receive any form of refund unless they have used a British credit card and paid more than £100; or booked as part of a package.
ABTA is drawing attention to this failure as it joins at least ten other airline collapses over the last five years and highlights concerns that consumers booking direct with these airlines can be financially exposed. ABTA tour operators and ATOL holders on the other hand, are required to protect their clients if an airline fails.
“The Vbird collapse is another example of where travelling consumers are now vulnerable,” says Ian Reynolds, ABTA Chief Executive. “If as a customer you had booked a V Bird flight with an ABTA tour operator or ATOL holding company, you would have been brought home. However, this week we have heard reports of hundreds of people - who had booked direct - left to find a new and expensive flight home.
In 1997, 98 per cent of leisure flights and holidays were financially protected, this dropped to 70 per cent in 2003 when it was estimated that 12 million leisure passengers were unprotected. ABTA is backing the Civil Aviation Authority’s proposals to extend financial protection to cover all scheduled airline flights and the Government is assessing the economic practicalities of introducing new, more comprehensive measures. “We sincerely hope that they will legislate and close the protection gap,” said Reynolds.