Airlines must become bonded to protect consumers, warn travel agents

TRAVEL agents have warned that more passengers will be left stranded unless airlines become bonded

The strongest criticism came from Dublin-based tour operator, Stein Travel, which said it had already alerted State bodies.

“In fact, we warned the Director of Consumer Affairs about the imminent collapse of Jetmagic as far back as November 10, and the problems that could arise for consumers,” said chief executive Bryanna O’Higgins.

The Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs said this was a matter for the Department of Transport.

All travel agents and tour operators in Ireland are required to be State-bonded, which means that if an agent or tour operator goes bust, the money and holiday bookings of their customers are protected.

However, this system does not apply to airlines. Stein Travel said it was discussing the issue with the Department of Transport.

The managing director of Dawson Travel warned that the public was completely unprotected. “If a major airline collapsed, it would create chaos. This is further proof of the need for airlines to be bonded,” said Pat Dawson.

A Castlebar-based travel agent said years of campaigning from the Irish Travel Agents Association had been ignored.

“The Commission for Airline Regulation hasn’t changed anything for the last 20 years,” said Fergus Kelly, whose company has been operating since 1964.

However, the Commission for Aviation Regulation said airlines were not required to be bonded under EU legislation.

Travel agents believe Jetmagic set up too many routes too quickly, and also made the mistake of taking on the big carriers on the London and Paris routes.

The managing director of Dawson Travel said the company’s closure was a severe blow to Cork Airport. “Cork is vulnerable to the fact that there is very little competition. Aer Lingus have pulled out of flights to Dublin and now there is just Aer Arann providing the service,” said Pat Dawson.

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