TRAVEL agents are facing losses running into millions of dollars if the Cathay Pacific flight attendants' strike continues to force them to cancel tours and hotel bookings. Most agents, who had paid between 20 and 50 per cent to hotels and tour bus companies as a deposit during the peak season, said they would lose this money if tours and travel plans were cancelled because insurance companies did not cover strikes. Although customers who backed out of tours because of delays could get their money back from travel agents, the Consumer Council said they would not receive compensation in the event of a strike. The council's chief complaints and advice officer, Mr Martin Wong Kwai-poon, said: ''Unless a travel agent is proved to have been at fault in fulfilling their services, consumers can't sue for compensation if a tour is cancelled. But they can get a full refund.'' A Cathay Pacific spokesman, Mr Kwan Chuk-fai, said: ''We exercise flexibility in handling passengers who refuse our alternative flight arrangements and demand refunds. In other words, we don't impose the refund penalty on them.'' Mr Kwan said if someone holding a first class ticket was transferred to an economy class seat, compensation for the difference would be paid. Jet Tour Holiday is one agency which has booked more than 90 per cent of its tickets with Cathay Pacific for their European tours, and all their flights with the airline for their Australian and New Zealand tours. Jet Tour's director Mr Ronnie Ho Pak-ting said four tours which set off last week had their flights delayed. He said his agents had been receiving more than 30 inquiries a day from customers since the strike began. ''We have to pay advance booking deposits of up to two days for hotels,'' Mr Ho said. ''If flights are delayed, we'll need to bear the extra operation costs for re-arranging transport and extending hotel stays. ''A customer can easily get back money from us for a delayed or cancelled tour, but we can't claim losses from an insurance company for this. We aren't covered for strikes.'' Ms Patricia Ho, of Hong Thai Travel Services, said most travel agents would be hard hit if the strike continued over the Lunar New Year. This was especially true for agents with more than 30 per cent of their bookings with Cathay. She said her agency would be particularly hard hit because half their tours were in Southeast Asia, and Cathay handled more than a third of their bookings. Morning Star's operations manager, Mr Titus Wan, said the strike had not affected them so far, but from Monday it would have two tours going to Thailand on Cathay Pacific every day. However, he said, his company usually booked seats on several airlines, in case of an emergency. ''We're hoping this will be settled before the weekend,'' Mr Wan said. The Travel Industry Council chairman Mr Harold Wu Tan said his organisation was in daily contact with the airline and was monitoring the situation. ''They told us they would arrange alternative flights for our member agents so we can go ahead with our tours,'' he said. But he warned that while the travel industry had not been seriously hit so far, ''if it remains unsettled by Chinese New Year, it will cause us a lot more trouble''. According to an insurance expert, most policies covered the individual customer for loss of luggage, delayed flights, liability and medical expenses. But he said most travel agencies had to buy a special policy which would cover irrecoverable funds or deposits due to unexpected incidents including strikes. ''So far this has not been a common practice in the travel industry because it means extra costs for the agency,'' he said.