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Travel Daily Exclusive - Tuesday 15 January 2019

AS MANY in the travel industry start to find their way back to work - of course many travel agents and
others have been working every day during these summer holidays, and the industry thanks you for your
efforts - it is hard for me not to make mention of the fiasco that is Bestjet.com.

The question on my lips, and perhaps on everyone’s lips “Where is all the money?”. As readers of Travel Daily would know, AFTA undertook a very significant process to have Bestjet.com kicked out of AFTA and ATAS accreditation back in 2017 and as it turns out, for very good reason.

The consumer media are understandably all over this story and while I have managed a short break over Christmas, I think my phone rang more times than when I am in normal work mode. The big issue for the industry is that the behaviour of this company and its principals, both past and recent, need to be put to
question. How can a company of this size just go down with all the money gone? As I said, “Where is the
money?”

Someone must have done something with it – surely it has not just escaped the clutches of the bank accounts without a person pressing some buttons. Fortunately, 95% of consumers will be able to get their money back via credit card chargeback as the majority of the tickets were paid for with a credit card.

While this will no doubt cause grief for the merchant services provider, it does again demonstrate that credit cards continue to be the cheapest form of consumer protection against these problems. This will advance even more as new and different forms of payments become part of the payments landscape. A special mention to all the airlines that have been trapped in this mess, many of whom have gone above and beyond to support consumers over this Christmas season.

As more details of this drama unfold and the liquidators undertake what we hope will be a deep forensic approach to establish the cause of the Bestjet collapse, we are all left to wonder why? For my money there is much more to this story than meets the eye and it is still only early days in this process. It is just not acceptable that this goes unchecked and AFTA will be looking further into this matter to ensure that the integrity of travel agents is upheld, that the reputation of travel agents does not get caught in the middle of this and that if there are avenues to pursue the truth then I think we all want to know what that is.

So welcome to 2019.

I am still, regardless of this mess, confident that the year ahead is set to be a good one for the industry and I wish everyone who reads this column a very happy, safe and prosperous 2019.