On Monday 1 April, the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) CEO came to the defense of travel agents after comments were made to the effect that travel bodies were exploiting stranded South Africans.
De Vries was responding to the public statement made by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, in Sunday’s briefing calling on travel agents to not to ‘exploit’ travellers during the COVID-19 crisis.
In his open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Naledi Pandor, Tito Mboweni, Pravin Gordhan and Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi Ngubane, ASATA CEO Otto de Vries stated that airlines, rather, were flouting the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) by and that travel agents were shouldering the blame.
‘Airlines’ refund policies are beyond the control of travel agents,’ De Vries stated. ‘In fact, travel agents have been left in the middle trying to secure funds from airlines to pay back to their customers.’
‘Throughout this crisis, ASATA has urged its members to comply with the CPA,’ the CEO stated. ‘However, it is manifestly unfair to expect travel agents to refund consumers, when the airlines are not willing to release the consumer’s funds. Essentially, the South African consumer and outbound travel agents are currently funding SAA’s operations, which is clearly unacceptable.’
The CEO also mentioned that, in fact, our own embattled national carrier SAA has not issued refunds but only postponements, credits and nominations of another passenger.
ASATA was established in 1965 and represents 90% of the travel industry’s market share.