UK travel industry attacks BBC1's 'Watchdog'

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The Independent Online

A row has erupted between Britain's holiday industry and broadcasters at the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) annual convention on the Greek island of Kos.

A row has erupted between Britain's holiday industry and broadcasters at the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) annual convention on the Greek island of Kos.

The president of Abta, Stephen Bath, launched an attack on the BBC 1 consumer show Watchdog, calling it "our least favourite programme", while the editor of the series said he received more complaints about travel than any other industry except internet service providers.

The editor, Mark Killick, told the Abta convention that complaints about the four biggest tour operators in July and August had doubled compared with a year earlier.

He said most complaints concerned substandard accommodation, poor customer service and delayed flights. "Almost half of all charter flights are being delayed now. This is becoming endemic," Mr Killick said. "We've seen correspondence from travel operators where they say delays are an accepted part of the process. Well, they're not. It's unacceptable."

Mr Killick also criticised the way that holiday companies deal with complaints. "It's a war of attrition. After four or five letters, you finally get vouchers. It seems that vouchers are deeply disliked by consumers, and the industry should engage that."

But Shaun Powell, managing director of Thomson Holidays, said: "We have fewer people complaining. We're spending 60 per cent less on compensation than we were three years ago."

Richard Carrick, of Airtours, said the potential for things to go wrong was higher for holidays than for anything else, and Watchdog should "stop telling people to complain about anything and everything".

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