Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), the oldest association of the industry, has announced that agents will only refund the booking amount once airlines return the booking amount to agents.
“Due to the ongoing global pandemic Covid2019, airlines have stopped operations. Globally, commercial passenger aviation business has come to a standstill. The worst affected are our members, who are engaged in the business of airline ticketing, package tours, hotel reservations, sightseeing bookings, etc., being the Travel and Tourism Sector,” Jyoti Mayal, President, TAAI said in a communique to the association members.
She further added that customers/travellers want to cancel their bookings and claim back refunds for tickets booked by them due to the travel restrictions placed by governments across the world. “The global crisis is scary and to remain healthy and safe people want to ensure they have adequate money to survive as recession has set in. Hence, travellers want their blocked monies back for the unutilised services of travel, which shall not be undertaken by them,” Mayal explained.
TAAI states that the Travel Agents/Tour Operators have paid 100 per cent to the airlines, for all tickets that have been issued, till date. “Our member agents are wanting to process the refunds, for the tickets issued by them for their customers, but majority of IATA member airlines, have disabled the refunding mechanism on the GDS systems for agents. Agents are now required to manually process refunds through Refund Authority with IATA, whereby the airlines are being non-committal on the date and amount of repayment of airfare. Most Low-Cost Carriers too are not refunding the airfares and are creating a credit shell favouring the passenger, to be used for future dates,” the President said.
TAAI has raised strong objections on the same with all airlines, as well as with IATA. It has also asked the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) to direct the airlines to refund all monies. Most airlines are offering credit vouchers in the name of the passengers which are valid for 365days and a couple of them are offering credit vouchers for upto 760 days.
“Further, additional funds of the agents are blocked with the airlines which have been paid by way of advances in float accounts of low-cost carriers operating in India. Therefore, all refunds / credits / vouchers shall be given to the customer/traveler, by our member agencies, only after the same is received from the Aairlines/IATA,” she added.
Jay Bhatia, Vice President, TAAI, informed that if things come to normalcy, the refund process, if authorised by the airlines, may take from 15 days to atleast 3 months, depending on the airline and how the situation across the globe remains. “Currently, most of the airlines are not giving waivers on the cancellation charges. They are not refunding the amounts in cash. They are only giving credit vouchers favouring the passenger, whereby name change shall not be permitted. During this time difficult time of survival, we are working closely with MoCA and IATA daily, to find a suitable solution, to resolve the refund issue, in the interest of the passenger, along with support from Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH),” Bhatia informed.