1. Summary of situation
ASATA has received several queries from travel agents outlining the following situation.
Customers whose flights have been cancelled due to COVID-19 have received a voucher for future travel from the relevant airline. However, the customer in question has disputed this and wanted a refund instead.
The customer has gone and lodged a dispute with their bank saying they want the transaction reversed because the services were not rendered. The bank has then reversed the transaction, and the money has then left the bank account of whomever the customer paid (travel agent or airline).
In the case of the airlines, some airlines have sent an agency debit memo (ADM) to the travel agent who facilitated the booking.
2. What should Travel agents do if you receive ADM from an airline?
If a travel agent receives an ADM for a transaction where the customer has been issued a voucher, ASATA suggests that you should contact the relevant bank which initiated the chargeback immediately.
Explain that the customer has already received a voucher for the transaction and attach the COVID-19 cancellation policy of the relevant airline for the bank to see.
For example, here is the link to SAA’s policy on this – which explains that customer’s are being issued vouchers for cancelled tickets and that chargebacks should not be issued on these transactions.
The travel agent should also lodge a dispute with the relevant card company and airline.
The ASATA Cancellations and Refunds Guide discussed Visa’s and Mastercard’s chargeback policies on transactions where COVID-19 has rendered a merchant’s performance impossible.
Both these card company’s have chosen not to reverse any transactions where there is an unsettled dispute, for instance, if the customer rejects a voucher from the merchant and demands a refund instead.