With the resumption of international leisure travel and with travel agency operations again allowed, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) is urging airlines to provide full refunds for cancelled flights since March when the government imposed travel restrictions.
PTAA president Ritchie Tuaño said estimated pending refunds from airlines is now at P315.55 million which is based on the “Outlook Survey” conducted by the association in late September among its member travel agencies. But with only close to half the members taking part, the amount due is expected to be still on the high side, especially on domestic ticketing.
“Although we relatively have a good assessment on where we are in terms of the pending refunds, we will go through again with those who have not answered the survey to get the complete outlook,” Tuaño said.
The PTAA chief also asked for public understanding amid pending refunds from travel agents.
Last Friday, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) released Memorandum Circular No. 20-53, Series of 2020, which has recategorized economic activities from Category IV to Category III.
Under the MC, travel agencies, tour operators, reservation service, and related activities are allowed to reopen at 50 percent operational capacity for areas placed under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and 100 percent capacity for areas placed under modified GCQ.
Although travel agencies have been moved to Category III status, Tuaño said travel agents might still be cautious in resuming operations until such time there is reasonable demand for travel that will allow them to sufficiently cover the overhead cost of their operations.
According to the survey, the top five airlines with pending refunds are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Emirates, and All Nippon Airways. Thirty-five more airlines still owe them refunds.
“Considering that three of the top five airlines that have yet to provide refunds fly the domestic route, it gives us pause to evaluate the pending refunds further. We want our member travel agencies to have the financial capacity to resume their operations normally,” he said.
Tuaño said airline refunds from cancelled flights over the last seven months have been coming in trickles but the PTAA will continue to pressure them so that travel agencies can return them to their clients.
The survey also pointed out that 74 percent of their member travel agencies will only open when there is enough business to sustain operations and that 84 percent are laying the groundwork for contact less transactions.
Furthermore, 87 percent of the member travel agencies said they will again offer all their services, 71 percent believe they will benefit from the travel bubbles, and 85 percent will change their pricing strategy.
“We want our member travel agencies to have the ability to immediately refund their clients whose flights were cancelled while at the same time have enough flexibility to slowly resume operations even as the country is still dealing with the pandemic,” Tuano added.
Aside from the travel refunds, the PTAA has been working to enable its members to gain immediate access to the financial assistance and soft loans as provided for in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).