The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) is calling for the work of travel agents in securing an estimated $7 billion worth of credits and refunds from suppliers on behalf of travellers to be recognised.
Christian Hunter, deputy chair at AFTA, said the repatriated $7 billion reflects a significant sum of the estimated $10 billion worth of travel booked through local agents with third-party suppliers and impacted by COVID-19.
Hunter said agents have been working around the clock for weeks and months at a time to support their customers – work that they have been providing for free and despite experiencing over a 90 per cent fall in revenue since the international travel ban was enacted in March 2020.
“The decision as to whether it’s a refund or a credit is decided by the third-party supplier’s contract with consumers and not travel agents,” he said.
“The refund system was never designed to work in reverse at a scale that COVID has necessitated, and so getting a decision out of suppliers and then [a] resolution is taking significantly longer than pre-COVID.
“What once took a travel agent hours to rectify with an airline, hotel, tour operator and the like is now taking weeks and months.”
Hunter said the faltering refund system was the result of the entire sector having contracted around the world with reduced teams and operational hours.
“Even for travel agents getting clarity on refunds or credits, especially on the more complex global bookings with multiple suppliers, is taking weeks and months,” he said.
“This time lag is frustrating for consumers and for travel agents, but it is unfortunately the reality we have to deal with.
“Agents are and will continue to act in the interests of and on behalf of their customers and are worth their weight in gold.”
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