Refunds and cancellations as a result of COVID-19 have been a major crisis for travel agencies and airlines over the past few months.
Through the Passenger Agency Programme Global Joint Council (PAPGJC), ASATA has voiced its concerns vehemently over refund restrictions, and refund and voucher policies several airlines have implemented over the past few months.
We have also lobbied to retain monthly remittance in BSP-ZA. Several media statements have been issued and subsequent interviews conducted expressing the association’s views on the matter – the most recent can be accessed here.
Most notably though, ASATA has been working behind the scenes on the issue of SAA refunds. While the situation is complex and fluid, we have been engaging with the Business Rescue Practitioners and raised our concerns that funds SAA has received from passengers for advance bookings must be protected.
We have stated publicly that while we have sympathy with the cashflow crunch experienced by all airlines, we do not condone unsecured vouchers as an alternative to the consumer’s right to get a refund, particularly in the case of SAA.
Members will also have received an IATA notice, advising of the withdrawal of the current provider of DIP in BSP-ZA. While Jack & Seach believe that Brit may continue and have issued due notice in the event that the withdrawal goes ahead, agents will be advised 60 days out what they are required to do.
This could for example be offering a guarantee or moving to a different agency model, such as GoLite accreditation, which offers a simpler and more flexible accreditation process for current and non-accredited Agents. Travel Agents under this accreditation model are able to transact in the BSP using customer cards or IATA EasyPay, a pay-as-you-go e-wallet solution. However, they will not have access to the BSP Cash facility. As a result, travel Agents opting for this accreditation model will be subject to fewer financial requirements.
Meanwhile, IATA has issued a COVID-19 Agent Toolkit, which is available here, or you can download a copy directly from IATA’s website. This is a compilation of several communications, guidelines, tips and best practices that have been released by IATA and other parties.
Also available is a document providing insights into the state of refunds in the BSP, unpacking behaviours around refunds for different markets.