AFTA is calling for the tireless work of travel agents in chasing and securing an estimated $7 billion worth of credits and refunds from airlines, hotels, tour operators and other suppliers on behalf of Australian travellers to be recognised.
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has come out and said that it’s time for the hard work and continued support from agents to be recognised.
The repatriated $7 billion worth of credits and refunds reflects a significant sum of the estimated $10 billion worth of travel booked through Australian travel agents with third-party suppliers and impacted by COVID.
AFTA said travel agents have been working around the clock for weeks and months at a time to successfully support their customers – work that agents have been providing for free and despite experiencing over a 90% fall in revenue since the international travel ban was enacted in March 2020.
The refund process
The terms and conditions of a trip or tour are set by the supplier and determine whether the consumer receives a refund or a credit on COVID-impacted travel. These conditions are different with each airline, hotel and supplier.
Consumer funds do not sit with the travel agent. In fact, when the consumer pays for the booking with the travel agent, the travel agent has to pay the airline, hotel or supplier, in order for the ticket or booking to be confirmed.
It is important to understand it is the end supplier and not the travel agent who holds the funds.
Therefore, the process of securing credits and refunds on a global scale has become more complicated and complex and taking weeks and months with differing supplier terms and conditions.
In addition to this, some countries have placed rules on end suppliers not allowing refunds to leave their country, which makes claiming back refunds all the more difficult.
“The decision as to whether it’s a refund or a credit is decided by the third party supplier’s contract with consumers and not travel agents,” said AFTA, Deputy Chair Christian Hunter.
“The refund system was never designed to work in reverse at a scale that COVID has necessitated and so getting a decision out of suppliers and then resolution is taking significantly longer than pre-COVID.”
“What once took a travel agent hours to rectify with an airline, hotel, tour operator and the like is now taking weeks and months. This time lag is frustrating for consumers and for travel agents but it is, unfortunately, the reality we have to deal with.”
Hunter said “Agents have been providing this support since COVID hit essentially for free and despite 90%-plus falls in revenue due to the international travel ban. Agents are and will continue to act in the interests of and on behalf of their customers and are worth their weight in gold.”
If you’re a travel agent who has been feeling under appreciated, you’re doing a great job.
If you’re a traveller, still waiting on a refund, thank you for your patience. Your kindness and compassion is very much appreciated. Please know your travel agent is doing all they can for you right now.
Do you have a travel agent superstar story to share? We’d love to hear it! Email [email protected].
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