Travel Associations have called upon the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to formulate a policy that will guarantee a refund for cancelled travel during the COVID-19 period.
Travel Associations worldwide who attended a virtual forum organised by the United Federation of Travel Agents (UFTAA) agreed that the refund policies by airlines have been a challenge for passengers and travel agents.
The Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) has been very vocal in demanding for refunds from airlines. The calls headed by KATA Chairman Mr. Mohammed Wanyoike and CEO Ms Agnes Mucuha have been relentless especially due to the negative effects to the economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the forum, it emerged that while some airlines had started making refunds, others offered vouchers serving as Credit Notes which will take time to realise.
Majority of the presentations by associations that were made during the forum urged IATA strongly to come up with a policy that safeguards monies of travel agents and passengers during such disasters or market situations.
“It is unfair and that hundreds of thousands of passengers and thousands of agents across the world have been put to unprecedented challenges by the Airlines when refunds were sought for flights that were cancelled, during the last five months” said several leaders during the forum held on August 31, 2020.
UFTAA’s Mid-Year Forum 2020 was attended by over 180 delegates from across the world.
Their presentations offered outstanding learning content for the industry stake-holders to capture the various situations that exist in different parts of the world. There was a focus on the trends as well as plans initiated to overcome the challenges posed by the most negative COVID-19 impact.
It was projected by some speakers that it would take a couple of years for the travel & tourism business to bounce back to the pre COVID numbers. It was important that what is initiated during this transition period has to be well planned.
UFTAA President Mr. Sunir Kumar R detailed the various initiatives UFTAA had taken up in their debates with IATA and Airlines to bridge the gap between the “crisis and relief”. For over 4 Months UFTAA actively represented the associations and their members to help address the challenges posed. Vice President & Chairman of Air Matters, Mr. Yossi Fatael, presented a lucid picture of the evolving situation and the trends that one must keep an eye on.
In view of the most enthusiastic response witnessed from the world of Travel & Tourism Industry leaders and stakeholders at this forum, UFTAA Board decided in favour of a second UFTAA Mid-Year Forum 2020 to be held virtually during September 2020. The Part 2 of UFTAA Forum will offer extensive interaction opportunity and learning from best practices that are prevalent, globally, for the benefit of its Associations and their members.
By Caroline Rwenji, Kenya Association of Travel Agents