Travel agencies and tour operators on Wednesday asked airlines to provide full refund of more than P300 million for cancelled flights since March when the government imposed travel restrictions.
The Philippine Travel Agencies Association estimated that pending refund requests reached P315.55 million based on the “Outlook Survey” conducted by the association in late September among member travel agencies.
PTAA president Ritchie Tuaño said with just half of the members taking part in the survey, the amount due was expected to be on the high side, especially for 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,” he 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,” he said.
Results of the survey showed that 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 were slowly settled, but the PTAA would continue to pressure them so that travel agencies could return the money to their clients.
The survey revealed that 74 percent of PTAA member travel agencies would only open once there is enough business to sustain operations and that 84 percent were laying the groundworks for contactless transactions.
About 87 percent of the member travel agencies said they would again offer all their services, while 71 percent believed they would benefit from the travel bubbles. About 85 percent said they would change their pricing strategy.
“We want our member travel agencies to have the ability to immediately refund their clients whose flights were canceled while at the same time have enough flexibility to slowly resume operations even as the country is still dealing with the pandemic,” Tuaño said.
The PTAA said that aside from the travel refunds, the group was working to gain immediate access to the financial assistance and soft loans provided under the Bayanihan 2 law.