Firstly, a thank you to all of our loyal and understanding clients who have reached out to us over the last month or so. We truly appreciate your support and business both in the past and, hopefully, the future. It has been a very trying time for our consultants and customers who were already travelling overseas. I am very proud of our team for their fantastic work assisting clients return home as well as addressing queries for the huge volume of people set to depart in coming months. Booking with an agency like ours is really showing it's incredible worth over these troubling times. The difference in our service levels compared to booking direct with airlines, who wouldn't take calls unless you are departing inside 72hrs and have had hold times in excess of 5 hours, has been exceptional. The amount of rework our team have done with no remuneration, including significant after hours work as borders closed, has been overwhelming and I thank them for their dedication and professionalism over extremely stressful times.
From last Monday, 16 March, we have moved the business to a 'work from home' model. With a flexible cloud system we are still able to service our clients as we had previously from our head office, whilst protecting our staff from the spread of Covid-19 by reducing their interaction with others, including on their commute to work and in the office. As Amy and I had started the business from home some 12 years ago it is a familiar feeling to those early days during the GFC when we launched the company. Now with a team of 25 it is a different dynamic to manage things remotely but it has been a successful migration with the support of Kenny our IT manager, we thank Kenny for his quick deployment of this solution on less than 2 business days notice.
We wish to assure our clients at this time that we are here to stay through this crisis and are very much looking forward to resuming usual operations as borders reopen and life returns to some form of normality. We are completely prepared for travel bookings to be impacted for the next 6 months but anticipate earlybird bookings for 2021 will begin to resume between August and October. We have sufficient cash reserves to cover expenses for a significant period of time and our online model provides a lower overhead footprint to continue to trade, we also welcome and will take up the government assistance packages to provide further buffer over this time until regular trading conditions return.
In light of the reduced demand for new airfare bookings, we expect to be primarily managing existing changes, cancellations and processing refunds over the coming months as they are received from the airlines. To assist with reducing our overheads, and to retain our current workforce on a 0.6 basis, we will be reducing our operating hours. Effective Monday 30 March, we will be open between 10am and 3pm Monday-Friday. In the short term there may be a delay in our regular servicing levels and we thank you for your patience in the coming weeks. However, the volume of clients adjusting or cancelling is already dissipating as we process those upcoming bookings and expect to be able to still deliver a more prompt service in a relatively short space of time.
There will be a significant volume of refunds to processed between April and July this year, due to the global surge in refund requests to airlines in a short space of time we are anticipating that processing times will blow out. Typically airlines take 4-6 weeks to process a refund, we are expecting at least double that time frame but are yet to see the turnaround of those as the vast majority of these submissions were only made in the last few weeks.
Rest assured that as part of our ATAS accreditation requirements we operate a Client Trust Account and handle all funds according to those guidelines. As part of the Trust setup there is no benefit for us to hold on to any of these funds. As a Member of Helloworld we receive a weekly ticketing statement for all of our ticketing transactions via our airfare consolidator, this must be reconciled the same week that it is received and all refunds will be processed within 2-5 business days of receipt into our trust account. Your consultant will be in touch with you at that time, all refunds are processed by EFT/direct deposit. Your consultant can also provide a reference of the refund submission date from our ticketing consolidator, please know that the processing of the supplier refund is outside of our control and we would appreciate your patience over this time rather than regularly chasing the status of the refund which we cannot control. Per our agency terms and conditions, and to comply with Trust account requirements which protect all customer's funds, we are unable to process any refunds before they are received from the supplier.
We are very much looking forward to the seeing the light at the end of the tunnel from this crisis, and returning to our normal personal and working lives. We know that this time will not last forever and that we all have to do our part to change our lifestyles and businesses over coming months to ensure we flatten the curve and protect the most vulnerable in our communities.
Sincerely, Mark Trim, Director
Complex Travel Group Pty Ltd, Trading as Flat Beds