Apprehension is replacing anticipation among many prospective holidaymakers, a leading travel industry figure has said.
With airlines making many thousands of summer flight cancellations, Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, told The Independent that half of all calls to travel agent members are from customers worried about their holiday plans.
“It was one in three calls but has now increased to 50 per cent of the calls they are receiving are from anxious holidaymakers who are reading the headlines,” she said.
“For many people this will be the first time in three years that they have had the opportunity to travel overseas, looking forward to a well-deserved break, long overdue visit to seeing friends and family – a time to de-stress after a very difficult few years.
“What the ‘travel chaos’ headlines do not tell you, is that in the vast majority of cases for the vast majority of people, they will not experience travel chaos. We need some calm and some perspective because the headlines are increasing the anxiety people are feeling even before they get on a plane.
“Travel agents at the coalface are really feeling the strain but continue to work exceptionally hard to ensure their customers are looked after, have all the information they need prior to departure and most importantly proactively offered alternative options in the event of any disruption.”
Ms Lo Bue Said said travel agents are advising customers not to arrive at their departure airport too early.
“The headlines have encouraged people to arrive at the airport far too early which exacerbates the issue – causing a bottleneck for passengers on early flights.”
The Advantage chief executive said rapidly changing UK government travel restrictions during the height of the Covid pandemic had contributed to the turmoil.
“The shutdown of international travel from March 2020 was by far the worst chaos I have seen in my 30 years of working in this industry.
“The inconsistent and onerous travel restrictions were unmanageable. I recall the chaotic traffic light system, weekly updates via Twitter and seeing the industry step up and move customers swiftly out of destinations with no notice whatsoever.
“The infamous scramble out of Mexico as the UK government turned it ‘red’ and those poor passengers finding out mid-flight that not only was their holiday ruined but they would need to spend a small fortune checking into an airport hotel on the return.”
Ms Lo Bue-Said conceded that she is slightly apprehensive about her forthcoming family holiday in Turkey, but added: “Whatever the reason for travelling, it unites people, brings joy to so many, keeps millions of hardworking people in jobs and is a critical function for many UK businesses and essential services.
“Every disrupted plan is one too many and by taking the necessary measures to build some resilience in the operation it will help to deliver more certainty.”
Today is the deadline for airlines to cancel flights for the summer season without losing arrival and departure slots for next summer at UK airports.
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