Webjet and eBay team up

Online travel agent Webjet Ltd has entered into a deal to allow auction and shopping website eBay access to market hotel rooms from its database.

Webjet said the partnership brought together Webjet's access to more than 50,000 hotels with eBay's customer databases - which had over five million members in Australia.

"Unlike many other forms of distribution, eBay has a unique and very special community of members of enormous size and marketing strength in the Australian region," Webjet managing director David Clarke said.

"It is the largest single step that Webjet could make in terms of extending its market footprint into the sale of hotels."

Clarke said Webjet would incur only marginal incremental operating costs from the arrangement and would accordingly achieve greater economy of scale.

He said further guidance in terms of the likely profit contribution to Webjet's bottom line would be made at the time of its annual result announcement in August.

Meanwhile, travel agency group Flight Centre has called for uniform financial protection for air travellers after a string of international airline collapses.

Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner said although major international airlines had performed strongly in 2007/08, the recent demise of several smaller overseas operators highlighted the potential dangers airline collapse posed to the travelling public.

Turner said the collapse of any major carrier servicing Australia would highlight the inconsistency in consumer protection regulations in the country as airline customers would not be protected by the government-controlled Travel Compensation Fund (TCF).

"Regulators in Australia currently demand that Flight Centre and other travel agencies pay annual fees to the TCF to protect consumers from financial loss flowing from a travel agency's collapse," he said.

"Airlines, however, are exempt from contributing to the TCF, despite the significantly greater financial impacts associated with airline collapse."

Turner said thousands of Australians were financially affected by the demise of Ansett in 2001 and could be hit again if a carrier flying to or from Australia were to collapse.

"While the major Australian carriers all have solid financial foundations currently, thousands of travellers would be left counting the costs in the event of a future collapse or the demise of a major international carrier servicing Australia."