Scouts have to raise fare again after ticket firm flies off the map: Andrew Bibby on the Global Link flop that left 30 boys stranded

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The Independent Online
THIRTY scouts from Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire are flying out of Heathrow today on the first leg of their journey to an international camp in Austria. But they have had to pay for their air tickets twice over as a result of the collapse last month of Global Link, the Bristol- based flight agency.

Although the holiday has been saved, the scout troop will lose several thousand pounds on the trip.

The scout leader, David Mead, heard of the failure at Global Link, a company that specialised in arranging cheap air tickets, just days after he had sent it the balance of the pounds 4,400 due for the flight to Munich. 'It had taken us ages to raise the money. There'd been car washing, paper rounds, and the Venture Scouts had run burger stalls at fetes.'

Ironically, Mr Mead found that he could rebook the same tickets direct from the consolidation ticket agency used by Global Link - at the much lower cost of pounds 3,353. However, his scout troop now has to pay back the emergency loan he arranged to finance the extra payment.

The experience of the Sawbridgeworth scouts points to the continuing problems for holiday-makers caught in travel industry collapses. Global Link was not a member of the Association of British Travel Agents, so customers were not protected by Abta's bond scheme. Neither could they benefit from the package travel regulations introduced by the Department of Trade and Industry late last year. These are specifically designed to offer protection for holiday-makers' deposits and pre-payments. However, Global Link, as a bucket shop dealing simply with flights, was not selling package holidays and not covered by the regulations. Rather absurdly, only the scouts themselves, by dint of charging parents for the trip, are technically bound by the rules.

The Bristol head office of Global Link was run by Justin Anderson and Jason Greave, who have now put the firm into the hands of the Official Receiver and filed for bankruptcy. Global Link had a complex network of franchisees and agents, some of whom are continuing in business under the same trading name.

Phil Parkyn, the trading standards officer at Avon County Council dealing with Global Link enquiries, said that the case appears to be one of simple commercial failure. 'There is no legal obligation for companies to be bonded with Abta. Some companies will bond, some won't,' he commented.

'You can't legislate for every business failure. When you put money up front, there is always a risk. Choose a firm with some form of bonding and, if you are paying over pounds 100, do it on your credit card.'

Under the Consumer Credit Act, credit card companies are jointly liable with the supplier for goods and services costing at least pounds 100.

(Photographs omitted)