PTAA presses airlines on refund of P315 M paid for cancelled flights

With the resumption of international leisure travel and with travel agency operations again allowed to resume operations, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) has renewed calls for airlines to fully refund P315.55 million in cancelled flights since March when the government-imposed travel restrictions.

PTAA president Ritchie Tuaño said that based on the “Outlook Survey” conducted by the association in late September among its member travel agencies, estimated pending refunds total P315.55 million. 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.

“We continue to ask for the public’s understanding on their refunds.  Although travel agencies have been moved to Category III status, they might still be cautious in resuming operations until such time there is reasonable demand for travel that will allow them to sufficiently cover 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. There are 35 airlines with pending 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,” Tuaño said.

He 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 respective clients.

The survey showed that 74 percent of PTAA member travel agencies will only open when there is enough business to sustain operations and that 84 percent are laying the groundworks 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,” Tuaño said.   

Aside from the travel refunds, the PTAA has been working for its members to gain immediate access to the financial assistance and soft loans as provided in Bayanihan 2.