AFTA column: February 2019

As we head into 2019, many of the industry have been dealing with and attempting to understand the completely disastrous mess left behind from the alleged collapse of Bestjet.com.

Bestjet.com was placed into administration in late December last year leaving thousands of travellers confused and frustrated right on the eve of Christmas.

As all in the industry know, AFTA had a less than pleasant and expensive fight with Bestjet in the Queensland Supreme Court over them being discharged from membership and participation of ATAS. As it turns out that fight was worth every cent, as it seems from media reports that many of the allegations made in that case by AFTA may have been true, in relation to the participation and influence held by Michael James in the business.

Meanwhile, thousands of consumers are being assisted as best possible by impacted consolidators, airlines and of course the banks over credit card chargebacks.

At the time of publishing it was still unclear as to exactly what brought about this mess, but indications that police involvement would be required due to the questionable activities leading into the collapse are already being reported in the consumer media.

Many in the industry have felt that this signals the start of something bad for the travel industry in Australia. I remain firmly of the view that this is something terrible done by people with questionable intent. This is in no way a demonstration of the status and abilities of Australian travel agents.

AFTA has been heavily involved in helping the consumer media to understand the deeper specifics around how the industry works, and will continue to play an active role in this story as the facts come to light.

Regardless of the circumstances, this type of business failure impacts on consumer confidence in the industry and places travel agents in the limelight, but not for the right reason.

I think it is important for all in the travel industry to know that everyone across the travel value chain is working together to ensure relationships remain intact, and that any changes to the structure of the industry that may be suggested off the back of this are fit for purpose and not knee jerk reactions.

Fortunately, it would appear that around 95% of the tickets sold were done so via a credit card transaction and as such the majority of consumers will get their money back.

But what is not clear is where all the money went and this will leave airlines, banks, suppliers and others well and truly out of pocket with it unlikely that there will be any real funds available, after the administrator’s fees, left to distribute.

All the best for the year ahead and let us all hope that this drama is our only drama of this kind in 2019. A special mention to all the impacted airlines and consolidator who have done their best over the Christmas holiday season to manage such a big mess.

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