Travel Agents

“Bitchy boss”: ACA journo rips into former AFTA chief Jayson Westbury

Ali Coulton

The now ex-CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) faced a gruelling TV interview last night to apologise for his recent comments about a female presenter.

Jayson Westbury appeared on last night’s episode of A Current Affair (ACA) to address his actions after suggesting the show’s host, Tracy Grimshaw, “needs to be given a firm uppercut or a slap across the face”.

Westbury made the comment during a closed, members-only webinar last Friday, which was reportedly posted to YouTube.

The video was about how negative publicity around the travel industry in the wake of COVID-19 was being addressed, but it has since been taken down, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

In the video, Westbury reportedly said he would never watch Channel 9’s A Current Affair again, after its treatment of travel agents over refunds and cancellation fees.

The interview was filmed before AFTA announced Westbury’s resignation late yesterday.

“Jayson Westbury had one job. As CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, he was supposed to help them navigate the devastating effects of this COVID-19 pandemic and somehow address the scathing criticism from customers who now couldn’t travel and couldn’t get refunds,” Grimshaw said, introducing the interview. 

“Instead, he chose to shoot the messenger in a disturbing personal attack on me. Tonight he’s the ex-CEO after a day of high drama.”

During the interview, ACA journalist Brady Halls referred to Westbury as “a business leader with a potty mouth” and a “bitchy boss”.

“Nobody in 2020 should speak about anybody like that, particularly not a man about a woman,” Halls said.

“We have enough problems with domestic violence in this country.”

“I think the situation we’re in, there is a lot of tension, there is a lot of frustration,” Westbury responded.

“There is a lot of cranky travel agents out there…” he said before Halls cut him off with “and CEOs”.

“Well yeah, I mean we’re all cranky,” Westbury said.

“I understand that you are bringing forward a point of view from some disgruntled customers. But I think the thing that hasn’t been told is the many thousands of very happy customers. 

“I unreservedly apologise for that statement. It was a bad choice of words by me.

“It was at a heightened time, there was a lot of member disgruntlement.

“I have extended my apologies directly to ms Grimshaw through a note that I’ve written to her that she will receive in the mail. I can do no more than apologies for those comments.”

Hall told Westbury that Grimshaw had not yet received the note, seemingly not understanding that letters can take more than two days to reach their recipient, and asked why he did not call her instead.

“I don’t have direct access to her,” Westbury said.

Halls went on to ask why some consumers aren’t receiving refunds for travel that was affected by COVID-19.

“The refund process is complicated. It’s not as easy as someone saying, ‘I don’t wanna go, I want my money back.’ Unfortunately, the system isn’t designed to work that way,” Westbury said.

“The money that’s been paid has moved all around the world and in 99 per cent of the cases the money is sitting with the supplier and so if someone has booked, say an air ticket, with an airline that’s domiciled in somewhere like the UAE… the process of getting the money back takes time.

“And of course, these companies are suffering themselves a cash crisis. Ultimately, I think the key thing is people can either get their money back or go on their trip.

“If they’re going to go on their trip, the companies have to stay in business. But the travel agents don’t have the money – the money is sitting with the suppliers.”

AFTA has declined Travel Weekly’s request for comment on the interview, but chairman Tom Manwaring said Westbury’s choice of words cannot be condoned.

“His work history stands in good stead for the service he has provided the travel industry and AFTA’s members,” Manwaring said in a release announcing Westbury’s resignation yesterday.

You can watch the full interview HERE.

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