As U.S. government discussions regarding financial relief for the travel industry continue to move forward, ASTA detailed ways in which airlines should process current refunds and commissions while stressing that support should also be granted to the advisor community.
“Passenger and cargo airlines alone have requested $58 billion in relief,” said ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby. “Given the pivotal role travel advisors play in the booking process, ASTA feels strongly that any targeted relief for the travel industry should be available to travel agencies and not limited to the largest companies in the industry.”
He added, “In the case of airlines seeking the significant relief as described, we ardently believe they should be compelled at this time to clarify ticket refund and exchange procedures for all travelers.”
For travelers who booked through agents, airlines should be required to provide much more specific information, Kerby said.
He noted that carriers should work toward ensuring that travelers who booked through an agency are advised to contact their advisor to process refunds and exchanges rather than directly on the carriers’ website; all tickets should be fully refundable and not credited for future travel; agents should be allowed to process all refunds through the Airlines Report Corporation (ARC); original agency commissions/incentives on air bookings should be protected if tickets are exchanged or rebooked, and commission should be protected on refunded tickets.
Zane also said airlines should confirm and/or clarify that penalty charges or change fees do will apply for canceled or rebooked flights at this time, and ensure that travelers can use any credit issued for unused tickets for a minimum of two years from the original departure date.
For air booked on or after March 1, airlines should lengthen the window for rebooking flights to one year from the date of travel with no change fees, and ensure ancillary fees for booking in 2020 that were subsequently canceled are fully refunded to the traveler
“We commend those airlines and other travel suppliers that have already relaxed their rebooking and cancellation requirements during this crisis. Doing so is of great value to the traveler as well as the travel advisor,” Zane said. “However, more relief is needed given the constraints remaining. Likewise, ASTA and its members thank those suppliers that have revised their travel agency commission and incentive payment practices to make them payable upon booking rather than at the time of travel, but we now call on all airlines to implement the same practice.”
In the final analysis “recognizing the value travel advisors play in the booking process and the trust placed in advisors by the traveling public will help ensure the long-term success of the travel industry as it rebounds in a post-COVID-19 world,” Zane said.
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