Airtours started the ball rolling when it put next summer's holidays on sale from 2 July, some two months earlier than last year. It does seem crazy, but Airtours claims there is a significant number of people who have already been on their summer '96 holiday and want to book up for summer '97.
Also, Airtours sees it as a way of pinching market share from rivals. There are always some people who book as soon as brochures are out. The theory goes that if you have got all your holidays on sale, the chances are that you can mop up bookings that might have gone to other companies.
Some operators were prepared for an early launch and as soon as Airtours went on sale for summer '97 they immediately launched their brochures. But market leader Thomson said it would not go on sale until 1 August, and Unijet, another big operator, is not launching until 23 July.
I've seen adverts for something called AETA - the Association of European Travel Agents. Is this Brussels' replacement for ABTA?
No, it's nothing to do with Brussels, but rather a privately funded alternative association to ABTA, for travel agents. If an agent belongs to ABTA, it means that people who shop there have financial protection in the event of a company failure. AETA aims to do the same job but claims that it is cheaper for agents to be members of AETA than ABTA. AETA also offers financial protection, so legally if you buy your holiday from an operator who has that logo in the window, your money should be safe.
No one in the travel industry seems terribly bothered about the collapse of Excalibur Airways. But doesn't it mean lots of people are going to find their flights cancelled?
No one was particularly surprised because the writing has been on the wall for Excalibur for some time. Excalibur was acquired six months ago by tour operator Globespan. It planned to transform Excalibur from an airline offering short flights to the Mediterranean to one offering longer flights to the US, South Africa and Australia. But Excalibur ran into problems when it didn't get the planes it wanted and had to lease others. The airline had build up a debt of pounds 5m by the time it went into voluntary liquidation.
However, this hopefully will not lead to too many problems for people who were booked to fly with Excalibur. Globespan and Liberty World Travel, which were both selling packages based on Excalibur, have been busy putting clients on other flights. Most people should get their holidays. If they don't, they will get their money back because the companies offering packages must by law also offer financial protection to their customers.
Where can I find out about hot and cheap destinations for November?
Your local travel agent, if he or she is worth their salt. If you are on a tight budget try the Canaries, the most popular wintersun destination from the UK. You should be able to pick up a decent package for around pounds 350. If you have a bit more to spend try Goa in India, or the Caribbean. Mainstream tour-operators are moving into areas previously the preserve of the independent traveller, and in November Airtours launches the first charter flights to Bali. That's November 1996.Reuse content