UK Atol association warns members as AirFastTickets ‘seeks assistance’

The Association of Atol Companies (AAC) has issued a warning about Greek online agent AirFastTickets, which defaulted on payments to airline association Iata last week.

In an update to members headed ‘AirFastTickets – be aware!’, the AAC said members had been approached by the agency to “provide assistance”.

A letter from Iata to airlines using its Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP), dated June 18, stated that Iata had put the retailer ‘into default’ due to €14 million owed in the UK.

The company also owed €22 million for tickets issued in Germany and €9 million in Greece, making €45 million in total.

The AAC said it was aware of numerous customer complaints that tickets had been issued and then cancelled within 24 hours, with no refunds forthcoming.

It added: “You may wish to consider the wisdom of selling seats to them. As their Atol licence is only 900 public sales, all sales will be under your Atol licence and therefore entirely at your own risk.”

Accredited Iata agents must pay on the 17th of each month.  The Iata letter stated that despite negotiations, AirFastTickets missed the deadline for sales in May.

Iata said it also suspended the agent in Greece and Germany to “safeguard the financial interest of airlines participating in the BSP”.

AirFastTickets, which continues to trade outside of the Iata scheme, said it was in negotiations about payment terms and bonding, which were ongoing and confidential.

Nikolaos Koklonis, founder and chief executive, said AirFastTickets had experienced rapid international growth and had no financial problems.

He insisted it did not owe suppliers and had the money, but had decided to drop its Iata accreditation from July to work with consolidators to be more competitive in the UK.

Alan Bowen, AAC legal adviser, said: “If they’ve got the money, why wouldn’t they pay it? This must be one of Iata’s biggest-ever defaults.”

Bowen expressed concern at the lack of close regulation of firms based outside of the UK but trading here.

Asked for an update on discussion with AirFastTickets yesterday, Iata sent the following statement:

“On June 18th 2014, IATA was obliged to place AirFastTickets United Kingdom in default due to their to them not meeting their remittance obligations with Airlines in the Iata BSP system. 

“The Ticketing Authority of AirFastTickets (their ability to issue tickets on behalf of BSP Airlines) was removed in the three markets that they serve (UK, Greece and Germany) to safeguard the financial interest of airlines participating in the BSP.”

On Monday AirFastTickets issues the following statement:

“Airfasttickets (the “Company”) has been in discussions with Iata regarding the terms of its payment and bond/guarantee obligations as a result of the rapid and significant increase in the Company’s sales volume. 

“These discussions are ongoing and confidential, and we are confident that a mutually beneficial agreement will be reached. The Company remains financially stable and our business operations are continuing as normal.”

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