COVID-19 has throttled the travel industry and the tourism industry has never seen a meltdown of this kind. It was only the travel industry that started losing money from as early as January this year. The travel industry which virtually shut down much early than the Indian shutdown will be the last to resume or revive.
Speaking to Hello Vizag, the members of Tours and Travels Association of Andhra (TTAA) stated, “now as domestic airlines have started to operate, we are facing the biggest backlash from passengers who had done their bookings with us. The clients are expecting refunds to be paid back to them on the flights cancelled over the last two months and also the flights cancelled in June.”
The members opine that the clients do not understand that the airlines are not making any refund to the travel agents in cash. Instead the airlines are refunding the amount in form of a credit shell in the name of the passenger and the passenger can use the same in 6 months to 1 year and each airline has their own credit policy.
According to K Vijay Mohan, President of TTAA, “a couple of airlines have refunded the amount into our login ID and this is not virtual cash as we can only use the amount for future bookings.”
“We have been requesting the airlines to refund the amount back to our bank accounts so that we can make the refunds to the passengers, but the airlines are not considering our request. The airlines have to understand that we have paid the amount to them to their account and they have to refund the same back to our account”.
Further when the clients call up the call centres of the airlines, instead of explaining the refund policy, they are just telling the passenger that they have made the refunds to the travel agents and to sort the same with them.
Mohan, further said, “We had issues from certain passengers who have threatened the travel agents that they want their cash back and they have nothing to do with the credit shells or amount in our logins. They claim that they had paid us in cash and they want their cash back.”
P Dheeraj, Vice-president of TTAA, said, “we are also facing another sort of issue from our corporate clients whom we issue tickets on credit. They say that since they have not travelled, they would not make the payments to us.”
“The same policy has also been taken up by the hotels, cruise liners, international Destination Management Company (DMC’s) who are also issuing a credit shell which we can use within 6 months to 1 year,” added Dheeraj.
The members, said that the approximate figures suggest that there could be refund amount of up to Rs 100 crore that the travel agents in Andhra Pradesh have to get from airlines, hotels, cruises and international DMC’s.
The members further added that as the government has not included the travel and tourism revival plan in their schemes announced by Finance ministry, “our fraternity would like to request the government to intervene and order the airlines to refund the amount to the agents bank accounts so as to enable us to relieve from the clients ordeal being faced by us.”
The policies of some the airlines:
Indigo – Credit shell for one year
Spice jet – Refund to login ID
Air India – Credit shell for 6 months
AirAsia – Credit shell for 6 months
Vistara – Credit shell for 6 months