On the Beach calls for regulatory action against low-cost airlines

On the Beach calls for regulatory action on low-cost airlines

On the Beach has called for regulatory action against low-cost carriers over “aggressive tactics” to remove consumer choice from the market.

The online travel agent (OTA) commissioned a report published this month which surveyed 3,000 UK holidaymakers who have flown in the last three years on their views towards airlines.

According to the white paper, 74 per cent of consumers believe regulators are not holding airlines to account for their bad behaviour, whilst 84 per cent fear that without action, airlines will get away with even worse service and higher holiday prices in future. The poll was carried out in May.

The news comes off the back of an ongoing campaign by OTAs to lobby the government to give regulators more powers to punish carriers that flout the rules over flight cancellations, delays and hidden fees.

On the Beach argues that without urgent regulatory action, there is a “critical threat to consumer choice”.

Shaun Morton, CEO of On the Beach, said: “Millions of people book with online travel agents every year because they can access choice, value and ATOL protected package holidays – and consumers have told us these things are really important to them.

“This is under threat because low-cost airlines are taking advantage of their market power and using anti-competitive behaviours, scaremongering tactics and smear campaigns to remove consumer choice, degrade the customer experience and purposefully make life difficult for online travel agents.

“Without urgent intervention, the UK travel sector will become dominated by a very small number of airline players which should be of huge concern for everyone.

“My hope is that the Competition and Markets Authority will act quickly to safeguard consumer choice because if not, competition will reduce, adherence to regulations and customer service will deteriorate further and holiday prices will only increase.”

In the report, On the Beach accuses low-cost airlines of blocking OTA booking fees, restricting seat availability, excessive OTA booking fees, making it difficult for OTAs to contact their customers, reputational attacks and delayed refunds.

It also calls for a full market review to be conducted by the CMA, in addition to the introduction of a code of conduct for airlines and OTAs to operate and work together.

Online Travel UK, an association of online travel companies, has said it welcomes the issues highlighted in the report. Airlines UK, an association of UK-based airlines, has been contacted for comment.

On the Beach’s full report can be read here.

Image credit: Brian Jackson/Adobe Stock