Update on refunds due to Covid-19

Tue, 28 Jul 2020

**Update from Mark Trim, Director, 28 July 2020**

Thank you to all our clients for their ongoing patience whilst we steadily receive refunds back from the airlines and our ticketing consolidator. If you have not had a chance to watch the below video/read the statement please take some time to review these documents as important background info. The overall situation with refunds continues in the same manner in June. I am pleased to say that we have processed a further $3,026,584 in refunds since the June update was published.

In the last 6 weeks we continue to get steady refunds back from BA, JAL, Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific who should be commended for their processing and streamlined solutions. We have, since the below update, had significant refunds received for Finnair bookings as well as some refunds coming back from Vietnam Airlines, Etihad, Emirates, SAS, Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic. Just in the last week we have received a handful of Qantas refunds, with many more to come.

Significantly, we are still waiting for more progress from the Lufthansa Group. However, we received email notice from Lufthansa on 27 July to update us and we are expecting to finally receive our first refunds from Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian in the next week or two. Many of you who have had detailed replies from our team, or watched my earlier video, will note that Lufthansa and Qantas, along with many other airlines, had disabled the self-service functionality for travel agents to submit refund requests. We are pleased that for Lufthansa Group bookings this has been reinstated as of 27 July for future refund submissions. This has been the major contributing factor to the unsatisfactory timelines on receiving refunds from the Lufthansa Group airlines. Our agents are able to send you the details of this email if you have an affected booking. Lufthansa Group has advised that they are expecting to make significant progress in the next 6-8 weeks to clear the backlog of tickets submitted up until the end of June.

Please note that once an airline processes a refund it is typically a couple of weeks from there for our ticketing consolidator to batch and process the funds back to us with our weekly ticketing statement. However, they are making great progress and this process is speeding up over time. Some recent statistics they have shared with us are as follows (bear in mind they look after ticketing for hundreds of travel agencies in Australia)...

“As of 27 July, total statistics during last 60 days:

67,764 Incoming Received
75,560 Refunds processed

Total statistics during the last week

6,051 Incoming received
9,118 Refunds processed

Total $ Refunds distributed back to agents last week $15.6m”

Typically speaking, as one of their larger travel agency customers, we are now processing over $800,000 per week back to our customers (up from $350,000-450,000 per week in June) and we cannot wait to get through all of these refunds. The quicker this stage is over with, the better. We, like you, wish this to be as painless as possible and look forward to getting back to planning future travels as soon as we are able to.

If you are still waiting for a refund, thank you again for your continued patience during this extraordinary time and we look forward to finalising these as soon as they are received.

Regards,
Mark Trim, Director

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11 June Statement from Mark Trim, Director:


With winter now upon us I'm sure we are all enjoying a bit of additional freedom as some restrictions ease in our everyday lives. Whilst this provides some respite from the depths of the Covid-19 crisis, it is still very much the darkest of days for the travel and tourism industry. Whilst we expect and prepare to be the last sector to recover, we remain relatively positive about the long term outlook and hold onto the hope that, eventually, 'every storm runs out of rain'.

After navigating the first stage of this crisis situation, which seemed extremely reactionary in an ever-changing landscape, we have now settled into the 2nd stage of the Covid-19 dilemma for the travel industry. We are glad that supplier policies are now clearer, more reasonable, and finally somewhat predictable. We very much look forward to when we can safely fly around the world again and once more discover the uplifting experience that travel delivers.

In the meantime, stage 2 appears to be playing the waiting game. Waiting for policies from respective suppliers to be extended, waiting until borders begin to reopen, waiting to return to our usual workplaces, waiting for normality to resume and, most importantly, waiting for airlines to process refunds.

Unfortunately that refund process continues to be derailed by airlines who have disabled any ability that travel agents had to process these refunds ourselves in a reasonable time-frame. With almost all airlines mandating refund submissions via IATA BSPlink, we are left in the dark with no updates and no ability to chase or influence the timeline of refunds due to this antiquated method. This article from late March highlights a number of airlines that have disabled the refund functionality, however, the list of airlines mentioned has only grown and now features almost every major carrier, including Qantas. 

The resulting IATA BSPlink refund process which is being enforced is one that is extremely laborious and requires manual intervention for every ticket, removing any possibility of automation and control. More can be read about the IATA BSP process here. Airlines state that this is being done to prevent errors [and subsequent agency fines], however, we can't help but see this as a delay tactic. Along with slowly extending policies to cover later departures this will ensure that they are paying back refunds at a time when they can be receiving new cashflow for future bookings once borders, both domestic and long haul, beginning to reopen.

Many carriers have finalised government bailout packages which we hope will provide much needed financial surety so that we can receive funds back and get those processed to our clients.

We are very thankful to our government for the support they are providing for our industry, as well as the hard work being done by AFTA to represent the various stakeholders on a larger scale. AFTA's Covid-19 update and FAQs are very useful should you have an affected booking. We would also like to thank the other organisations around the nation which are adapting to the crisis. Including landlords, the banks and especially credit card issuers who are protecting merchants from charge-back requests when trips were affected by Covid-19 cancellations. Whilst we know it is frustrating to wait for the airlines to process these refunds, know that we absolutely wish this would be over with as quickly as possible.

I have taken this opportunity to provide further detail in the video above and would ask that if you have an outstanding booking or refund with us to please take a moment to view the video. Thank you for your understanding, patience and consideration.

Mark

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